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Trump says he’ll deliver State of the Union speech when shutdown ends

Updated January 23, 2019 - 8:52 pm

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday rescinded her invitation to President Donald Trump to deliver his State of the Union address in the U.S. Capitol next week, and offered to reschedule it once the government shutdown ends.

After criticizing Pelosi for being “afraid of the truth,” and toying with the prospect of an “alternative” venue, Trump took a more statesmanlike tone on Twitter late Wednesday night.

“This is her prerogative – I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over,” Trump announced on Twitter. “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!”

It was the latest test of wills between Trump and Pelosi as they remain locked in an increasingly personal standoff over the president’s demand for border wall money that has forced a partial government shutdown, now in its second month.

Earlier Wednesday, Trump sent a letter to Pelosi informing her that he would be honoring her Jan. 3 invitation to speak in the House chamber on Tuesday.

“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 said in his letter.

Shortly thereafter, Pelosi pulled the invitation. She informed Trump by letter that he would not be able to deliver his State of the Union address in the House chamber while the government remained shut down.

Pelosi wrote that the House would not consider a resolution “authorizing the President’s State of the Union address in the House chamber until the government has opened.” She invited the president instead to pursue a date after the shutdown ends.

“I’m not surprised,” Trump responded when he heard the news. “It’s really a shame, what’s happening with the Democrats. They’ve become radicalized.”

But it wasn’t clear if Trump would accept Pelosi’s disinvitation to speak in the Capitol on Jan. 29 until the president spoke with reporters shortly after 3 p.m.

The State of the Union address became a partisan proxy in the shutdown stalemate on Jan. 16, when Pelosi sent Trump a letter suggesting that he postpone the scheduled address out of security concerns, or submit his remarks in writing.

The White House countered that the Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security said that security would not be a problem.

The next day Trump counterpunched by announcing that he would not allow Pelosi and a congressional delegation to travel to Afghanistan and Brussels on a military plane — hours before the group was set to take off.

As Pelosi had only suggested that Trump pick an alternate date last week, the White House signaled that the president would go ahead with the address.

Trump noted Wednesday that Pelosi issued the invitation after the shutdown began, which he said undercut her argument that she pulled it out of security concerns.

In her Wednesday letter, Pelosi said that when she invited Trump to address the House, “there was no thought that the government would still be shut down.”

The president cannot speak in front of a joint session of Congress without both chambers’ explicit permission. A resolution needs to be approved by both chambers specifying the date and time for receiving an address from the president.

Trump told reporters that the disinvitation was a historical first from a speaker to a president.

But Mark B. Harkins, senior fellow of Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute, noted,“We’ve never had a shutdown during the State of the Union.”

Kevin Madden, a public relations guru who served as a spokesman for 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, said that the State of the Union spat cast Washington as a reality TV show with “an incredible shrinking presidency meeting a hyper-partisan Congress.”

“Really there are no winners,” Madden added.

“I think Pelosi’s overplayed her hand here,” said former Trump campaign adviser Sam Nunberg. “The president has looked more magnanimous” by proposing a compromise measure Saturday and wanting to address Congress.

As for Pelosi, Nunberg asked rhetorically, “How does this show that she is the one who’s not being political here?”

Democratic pollster Paul Maslin took the opposite view. “She’s winning this. That’s all I will say.” As for the shutdown showdown, “He’s getting hurt by this and eventually he will cave,” Maslin said.

Contact Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com or at 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.

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