The Slatest

Nancy Pelosi “Suggests” That President Trump Reschedule the State of the Union

President Trump delivering his 2018 State of the Union address.
President Trump delivering his 2018 State of the Union address.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in her just-thinking-out-loud-here voice, passed on a suggestion to President Trump regarding the State of the Union address that’s scheduled for Jan. 29: Since preparation for SOTUs requires a lot of planning and advance security work from federal employees currently on furlough, maybe he should consider another date unless the shutdown wraps up soon? Or submitting it in writing would work, too.

It was unclear in reading Pelosi’s letter whether she was asking him to reschedule or informing him that he would have to. State of the Union addresses require the speaker of the House to invite the president to Capitol Hill and for the House and Senate to pass a resolution. When Pelosi wrote that she “suggest[s]” the two “work together to determine another suitable date after government has re-opened for this address,” or to deliver the address in writing on the 29th, was this her diplomatic way of telling him the invitation was revoked?

A spokesman for Pelosi said, “No,” this was not a formal rescinding of the invitation, just a proposal. Then, however, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer went on CNN and said, “the State of the Union is off.” A spokesman for Hoyer then clarified that “he hadn’t read the actual letter and misunderstood.” OK. For now, this is just a proposal for Trump to mull over. If he decides that he does want to press forward and give a joint address to Congress on that specific day, he could receive a proper disinvitation.

Trump could decide to sidestep a thrilling public scheduling debate with Pelosi altogether and choose one of several other options.

The first option would be to reopen the government and deliver the address to Congress as scheduled. But let’s not be frivolous.

If the government is still shut down, he could submit the address in writing, as Pelosi suggested, and earn some goodwill with the millions of Americans who take their 9 p.m. Tuesday television programs seriously. He could deliver the speech from the Oval Office or another White House set-up. He’d probably appreciate some applauding crowds, though, applauding for his applause lines. In that case, he could submit the address in writing and deliver it later that day during a MAGA rally along the border. The net effect of any of these alternatives is that the following day, Republicans and Democrats would … still wake up with starkly different views about the merit of funding additional physical barriers on the southern border and few political incentives to reach an agreement. But surely they’ll have more ideas for cheeky letters.