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- President Donald Trump has sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promising to go forward with the State of the Union address scheduled for Tuesday.
- Pelosi has insisted that the annual address to a joint session of Congress be postponed until the partial government shutdown is resolved.
- The speaker of the House can prevent Congress from entering a joint session, increasing the likelihood that Trump will not get to deliver his speech on Tuesday.
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump has informed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi he intends to go forward with the State of the Union address scheduled for Tuesday evening, extending the political game of chicken between the two leaders amid a partial government shutdown that appears to have no end in sight.
Pelosi followed up by informing Trump she would not allow a State of the Union to happen on Tuesday, setting up what could be a chaotic scene if the president follows through with his word.
In a letter to Pelosi on Wednesday afternoon, Trump wrote that he would show up to the House chamber on January 29, adding that “it would be so very sad for our Country if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, on schedule, and very importantly, on location!”
Trump also said that security for the event was not a concern, even though Pelosi raised the issue in her initial letter earlier this month calling for the speech’s postponement.
But Trump may not be able to just show up and deliver the speech without Pelosi’s blessing. The State of the Union address occurs during a joint session of Congress, which requires the consent of the speaker of the House to enter.
And later Wednesday, Pelosi responded to Trump in a letter stating that she will not take the procedural steps to convene a joint session of Congress.
“I am writing to inform you that the House of Representatives will not consider a concurrent resolution authorizing the President’s State of the Union address in the House Chamber until government has opened,” she wrote. “Again, I look forward to welcoming you to the House on a mutually agreeable date for this address when government has been opened.”
Trump responded during a meeting at the White House, telling reporters he is “not surprised.”
“It’s really a shame what’s happening with the Democrats,” he added. “They’ve become radicalized.”
Further, as speaker, Pelosi has control over the recording studio in the House, meaning she could have the cameras turned off inside the chamber. Because outside video cameras are not allowed into the chamber, there could be no broadcast of the event.
What could result Tuesday is a chaotic fight in the Democrat-controlled House. As Trump looks to take the spotlight, the already tense atmosphere could become much worse.
Democrats are already unnerved after Trump canceled the military chartered flight for a bipartisan delegation traveling to Afghanistan. When the group attempted to fly commercially, the White House leaked the travel plans, creating a security risk that resulted in the trip’s cancelation, according to an aide to Pelosi (the White House denies this claim).
Pelosi had repeatedly called for postponing the address or having Trump submit it in writing, as was customary until President Woodrow Wilson delivered it in person in the early 20th century.
“The date of the State of the Union is not a sacred date, it’s not constitutionally required, it’s not the president’s birthday, it’s not anything,” Pelosi told reporters last week. “It is a date that we agreed to. It could’ve been a week later – and it could be the week later if government is open.”
Trump is mulling holding a State of the Union-style address outside the Capitol
Republicans are split on what kind of options Trump has regarding the State of the Union.
Republican Rep. Mark Meadows told reporters the White House had discussed the possibility of holding the address at an alternative venue. ABC News reported that Trump could also do multiple speeches, including a campaign-style rally in its place, though this would not be under a joint session of Congress.
Meadows told INSIDER he believes that in the even Pelosi did allow a resolution for Trump to speak, it would receive broad bipartisan support.
“I don’t know if [Trump] will show up if she doesn’t take the vote,” Meadows said. “I think most Democrats and all Republicans would vote for that.”
“I don’t know that any of us want to play politics with the State of the Union,” he added, noting how hostile the process has been. “There’s certain political ramifications that have been a result of the shutdown fight that I would be disingenuous to suggest otherwise.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters on Wednesday that his preferred route was Trump delivering the address in the House chamber and in line with tradition.
“I think any indication not to hold it in the chamber is wrong on the speaker’s behalf,” he said. “I think the idea that you would ask the president to move in a time that we’ve watched in the past. It doesn’t matter what crisis America had in the past – we were able to still have a State of the Union.”
“It didn’t matter that we were shut down that we could actually swear in Congress inside those chambers,” McCarthy added. “We should give the same respect to the office of the presidency instead of putting politics before the American public.”
UPDATE: Trump told reporters in the White House “the State of the Union has been cancelled by Nancy Pelosi because she doesn’t want to hear the truth.”