The government shutdown has affected how many government agencies function — and now it might impact how the president himself gives his annual address to Congress. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote a letter to President Donald Trump to suggest he give the 2019 State of the Union in writing — or that he reschedule for some time after the government shutdown due to security concerns.
In a letter sent Wednesday, Pelosi wrote, "Both the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security have not been funded for 26 days now — with critical departments hamstrung by furloughs." She also pointed out that in September 2018 Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen designated State of the Unions as National Special Security Events, which require the "full resources of the Federal Government be brought to bear."
In a shutdown, Pelosi says that's not possible. "Sadly, given the security concerns and unless the 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 Congress on January 29th," Pelosi wrote.
Pelosi underlined that no State of the Union has ever been given during a government shutdown and said it used to be typical to deliver such an update to Congress in writing, from the days of Thomas Jefferson up until the presidency of Woodrow Wilson in the 1910s.
Exactly what her letter means has not been made clear by Democratic leaders. Pelosi's colleagues suggested the public see it as her rescinding the invitation, CNBC reported. But Pelosi countered that messaging, telling reporters that it was just a matter of "housekeeping."
"It’s on the strength of the statement of the Secretary of Homeland Security about all of the resources that are needed to prepare for a State of the Union Address, which she calls an event of special security,” Pelosi said. “And ... these people are not working."
"He can make it from the Oval Office if he wants," she added. The news provoked a strong reaction on Twitter, where "State of the Union" became a trending topic.
"Pelosi’s letter effectively cancelling the State of the Union is a reminder: a) she has tons of leverage b) she knows pressure points C) she can snap her fingers and seek Trump’s tax returns," wrote Damian Paletta, a Washington Post White House economic policy reporter.
Joy Reid of MSNBC wrote, "A timely reminder that the Speaker of the House controls the chamber where joint sessions are held, and congress is a co-equal branch of government."
Astead Herndon, a national politics reporter for The New York Times, made a joke about how Trump might prefer to submit his State of the Union. "Madame Speaker, I present the State of the Union (Thread 1/619138):," he posted.
Jen Psaki, CNN contributor and the former White House communications director under President Obama, lauded Pelosi. "For anyone who had doubts that having an experienced pro in the job as speaker was essential in this moment...Pelosi's effectively cancelling @realDonaldTrumpState of the Union is a healthy reminder," Psaki wrote.
Pelosi would say it's just housekeeping.