Pelosi Asks Trump to Reschedule Annual Speech Amid US Government Shutdown

Last Updated: 1/16/19 11:24 a.m 

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked President Donald Trump on Wednesday to reschedule his annual State of the Union speech before Congress because of partial federal government shutdown, citing security issues.

The top Democrat in the House of Representatives wrote Trump a letter expressing concerns about the nationally televised speech on Jan. 29.

The U.S. Secret Service is the lead agency responsible for coordinating and planning security for the event, she said, but the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security have not been funded for 26 days, with “critical departments hamstrung by furloughs.”

“Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government re-opens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has re-opened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to the Congress on January 29th,” the letter said.

Preparing for the event takes weeks of detailed planning, Pelosi noted.

The federal government has been partially shut since Dec. 22 over Trump’s demand that $5.7 billion for a wall along the Mexican border be included in a government funding bill. Democrats refuse to fund the wall, which Trump promised to build during the 2016 presidential campaign, saying Mexico would foot the bill.

The White House had no immediate comment on Pelosi’s letter.

Representative Jim Jordan of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative Republicans who are close allies of Trump, said Pelosi’s move showed the lengths to which Democrats will go to obstruct Trump.

“It sure sounds like she’s looking to not have the president come and give the State of the Union address, not have the commander-in-chief come and address the nation,” Jordan told Reuters. “I think that just shows that they’re more focused on stopping the president than they are on serving the country.”

Speaking to reporters at the Capitol, Pelosi reiterated that security concerns had driven her request and suggested the president could deliver the address from the White House, according to CBS News.

Trump on Wednesday is expected to sign legislation that would ensure 800,000 federal employees will receive back pay when the government reopens.

Some government employees are being asked to return to work after being initially told to stay home during the shutdown, although they will not be paid on schedule.

Both the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday said they would call back nearly 50,000 employees to process tax returns, refunds and other tasks or to work in aviation safety inspection.

The Washington Post reported that Food and Drug Administration workers also have been called to work without pay during the shutdown.

The shutdown began on Dec. 22 after Trump insisted he would not sign legislation funding the idled government agencies unless it included more than $5 billion for the border wall.

The wall was a signature campaign promise of his before the 2016 presidential election. Trump said at the time Mexico would pay for it but has since reversed himself, denying that he ever said Mexico would directly pay the bill.

Trump initially said he would take responsibility for the shutdown but later shifted blame to Democrats, who have controlled the House of Representatives since Jan. 3.

Trump needs the support of at least some Democrats in the Senate to pass funding legislation.

Economists have estimated that each week the shutdown continues will shave off 0.1 percent of economic growth.

More than half of Americans blame Trump for the government shutdown, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll. A separate poll found the shutdown has affected four in 10 Americans, far beyond the federal employees directly feeling the impact of the funding lapses.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Steve Holland, Doina Chiacu; editing by Jonathan Oatis)