- Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
- President Donald Trump is the first president in US history to be disinvited from delivering the State of the Union address.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday more or less canceled Trump’s address after the two had quarreled over the issue for days amid an ongoing partial government shutdown.
- Reacting to the move, Trump on Wednesday said, “I don’t believe it’s ever happened before, and it’s always good to be part of history. But this is a very negative part of history.”
- Trump later said he would wait until the government shutdown is over to deliver the address.
- Historical records show that no president has ever had an invitation to deliver the State of the Union in the House chamber rescinded.
- Pelosi on January 3 invited Trump to deliver the address, but later called on him to postpone it because of the shutdown, and the two have traded blows on the matter ever since.
After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday effectively canceled President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, the president suggested the move was completely unprecedented.
Based on historical records, Trump is correct, and we are in uncharted waters.
Trump and Pelosi have been trading blows on this issue for two weeks as part of a broader standoff between the White House and Democratic leaders over funding for a border wall. The dispute has led to the longest government shutdown in US history.
The story took yet another turn on Wednesday after Trump essentially threatened to waltz into the House chamber next Tuesday, on the originally scheduled date of January 29, and deliver the address regardless of Pelosi’s authority or wishes.
In a letter to the House speaker, Trump said “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!”
In response, Pelosi sent a letter to Trump informing him the House “will not consider a concurrent resolution authorizing the President’s State of the Union address in the House Chamber until government has opened.”
The House speaker added, “Again, I look forward to welcoming you to the House on a mutually agreeable date for this address when government has been opened.”
In this sense, Pelosi did not outright cancel the address, but informed Trump it is to be postponed and rescheduled, pending the reopening of the federal government.
Pelosi on January 3 invited Trump to deliver the address, but later called on him to postpone it, citing security concerns linked to the shutdown. Trump responded by canceling Pelosi’s scheduled government trip to Afghanistan at the last minute, and their fight over the State of the Union has only escalated since then.
Reacting to Pelosi’s letter, Trump at a meeting on Wednesday said, “We just found out that she’s canceled it, and I think that’s a great blotch on the incredible country that we all love. It’s a great, great, horrible mark.”
Trump added, “I don’t believe it’s ever happened before, and it’s always good to be part of history. But this is a very negative part of history. This is where people are afraid to open up and say what’s going on. So it’s a very, very negative part of history.”
NEW: Pres. Trump says Speaker Pelosi "has cancelled" State of the Union address.
"I don't believe it's ever happened before. It's always good to be part of history, but this is a very negative part of history. This is where people are afraid to open up and say what's going on." pic.twitter.com/vQLJ5xzJyn
— ABC News (@ABC) January 23, 2019
The president, who has often struggled to accurately depict history, is right in this case: There’s no evidence an invitation for a scheduled State of the Union address has ever been rescinded, according to records from the office of the House historian.
There have been cases in the past in which presidents have sought to deliver speeches to Congress that were not State of the Union addresses and had their requests denied. Former President Ronald Reagan, for example, in 1986 was denied a request to address the House to make an appeal for aid to the Contras rebel group in Nicaragua. At the time, House Speaker Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. rejected Reagan’s ask as an “unorthodox procedure.”
Relatedly, Reagan, also in 1986, postponed his State of the Union address following the tragic explosion of the Challenger space shuttle.
If Trump delivered the State of the Union address on January 29, and the shutdown was ongoing, he also would make history in that context.
A State of the Union address has not coincided with a full or partial government shutdown since the start of the modern budget process in fiscal year 1977, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service and records from the House historian.
Trump on Wednesday afternoon suggested he might seek an “alternative” venue or option for the address. But by Wednesday night the president took to Twitter and indicated that he would forgo this route and wait to deliver his speech until after the government shutdown is over.
“As the Shutdown was going on, Nancy Pelosi asked me to give the State of the Union Address. I agreed. She then changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date. This is her prerogative – I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over,” Trump said.
He added, “I am not looking for an alternative venue for the SOTU Address because there is no venue that can compete with the history, tradition and importance of the House Chamber. I look forward to giving a ‘great’ State of the Union Address in the near future!”