The Slatest

Nancy Pelosi Makes It Official: No State of the Union During the Shutdown

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Alex Wong/Getty Images

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “suggested” to President Trump last week that he find a new date for the State of the Union address, so that the event would not occur during the government shutdown, her aides were adamant that it was just that: a suggestion. What it wasn’t, they said, was an official rescinding of the invitation she had sent out earlier in January. Pelosi was just putting a proposal out there for him to chew over.

But now it’s official: President Trump will not be allowed to deliver a joint address in the House so long as the government remains shut down.

Trump finally responded to Pelosi’s “suggestion” Wednesday morning. In a letter, he stated that there were “no security concerns regarding the State of the Union Address,” as she had said would be the case. “Therefore,” he added, “I will be honoring your invitation, and fulfilling my Constitutional duty, to deliver important information to the people and Congress of the United States of America regarding the State of our Union.” And, as is the case with every formal letter that “Donald Trump” writes, it was obvious which specific line he forced his staffer to include: “It would be very sad for our Country if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, on schedule, and very importantly, on location!”

The idea was to dare Pelosi to disinvite him and prevent him from delivering his speech. The move put the screws to Pelosi so much that… she did just that.

“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,” she wrote in a letter Wednesday afternoon. “Again, I look forward to welcoming you to the House on a mutually agreeable date for this address when government has been opened.”

Trump responded shortly thereafter, in non-letter form, that was “not surprised.”

The president now has many options. He could agree to reopen the government by Tuesday and still deliver the State of the Union in the House, as usual. He could agree to another date. He could deliver the address at a MAGA rally somewhere in the vicinity of the southern border—though, as he’s told us, being anywhere in the vicinity of the southern border is a wildly dangerous death trap. He could try to deliver it in the Senate, or he could deliver it on the steps of the Capitol. The true masterstroke, though, would be to submit his address in writing, freeing the country from the scourge of this annual 9 p.m. nightmare that has no effect on anything. He could do that even if the shutdown were over by Tuesday! It seems like a very strong idea, he should look into it.