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Pelosi to Trump: Find another venue for State of the Union

Speaker officially uninvites president from Capitol for annual address

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has informed President Donald Trump that absent the end of the shutdown, the House will not host him for the State of the Union. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has informed President Donald Trump that absent the end of the shutdown, the House will not host him for the State of the Union. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

In the latest escalation of a war between branches of government, Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday informed President Donald Trump that she will not host him in the House chamber next week so he can deliver his State of the Union address.

“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,” the California Democrat said. “Again, I look forward to welcoming you to the House on a mutually agreeable date for this address when government has been opened.”

There is nothing in statute or the Constitution that states the president must deliver the State of the Union as a speech or at any particular venue, much less the Capitol. 

After sending her letter to Trump, Pelosi explained her decision to reporters like this: “We are concerned about the workers.”

Watch – ‘They’ve become radicalized’: Trump’s response to Pelosi’s SOTU disinvite

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The speaker said the federal workers should be getting paid but otherwise declined to elaborate on her message to the president.

“See the letter, that’s my message,” Pelosi said.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer suggested he supports Pelosi’s decision although he did not directly say so when asked about it.

“My response is we need to open up this government, period,” the Maryland Democrat said. There’s no excuse for shutting down the people’s government. And there’s no reason why if we do it this time we won’t do it every time we have a disagreement.”

Trump was asked about Pelosi’s decision by reporters at the White House during a health care event, and he used it to continue labeling her party as beholden to its more progressive faction.

“I’m not surprised,” he said. “We’ll have to respond to it,” the president said. “We’ll respond to it in a timely manner.”

White House officials did not immediately announce any possible new plan for Tuesday night. “Stay tuned,” Communications Director Bill Shine told reporters.

Another senior Trump aide, Kellyanne Conway, zinged the speaker earlier, indicating a White House not interested in any language that would de-escalate the situation. 

Pelosi “lied about the security concerns” the California Democrat cited in a letter last week requesting the president delay his State of the Union address or deliver it in writing on Tuesday, Conway said. 

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise called Pelosi’s decision “a mistake.”

“Now she wants to hold the State of the Union hostage? It’s unprecedented in the history of our country,” the Louisiana Republican said.

Scalise said Trump should hold the State of a Union in a different location.

While he noted he’s shared some ideas for alternative venues with Trump, he declined to share those with reporters.

Before Pelosi sent her letter saying the House wouldn’t consider a concurrent resolution for holding the State of the Union, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced on Twitter that he had introduced one.

“Retweet if you agree that the State of the Union should proceed as planned,” the California Republican said. “I just signed and submitted a resolution that would permit President Trump to deliver his #SOTU address in the Capitol on January 29th.”

White House press aides indicated an announcement on Trump’s plans is in the works, but one declined to say if it would be released or tweeted later Wednesday.

Vice President Mike Pence was asked as he moved through a West Wing hallway to respond to Pelosi’s decision. “The president has a constitutional duty to report on the State of the Union,” he said. Asked if that could occur at a venue other than the Capitol, Pence smiled and said, “Yes.”

At a second White House event that was opened to reporters, the president mischaracterized the situation by saying “the State of the Union speech has been canceled.”

Because the Constitution only states that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union,” it is not a matter of canceling. What is at issue is the venue and manner of delivery. If the president wants to deliver the speech at the Capitol, he needs the ascent of Congress. But the speaker, nor Congress, cannot cancel the speech. 

Trump said his announcement about his Tuesday plan will come “at a later date.” He also called the House chamber a “beautiful room” where the address should be made — Pelosi has offered to host him in that very room, just after the shutdown ends. 

Asked why he doesn’t just take the speaker up on her plan to merely delay the speech, he shot back: “That’s not what she means,” indicating the president believes Pelosi’s goal is to prevent him from entering the chamber this year.

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