One day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on President Donald Trump to reschedule his State of the Union address due to the government shutdown, Trump fired back at Pelosi with a letter on Thursday. Urging Pelosi to stay in Washington, D.C., Trump threatened to postpone the California Democrat's plan to visit several foreign countries.
"I am sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan has been postponed. We will reschedule this seven day excursion when the shutdown is over," Trump said in his letter.
"I also feel that, during this period, it would be better if you were in Washington negotiating with me and joining the strong border security movement to end the shutdown," Trump added in his letter to the House speaker. "Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative."
Now, you might be wondering: does the president have the power to cancel a member of Congress' diplomatic visit to another country? According to The New York Times, Trump is presumably referring to withholding military transport for Pelosi and those joining her on this trip, namely Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Eliot Engel from California and New York, respectively.
The ongoing partial government shutdown — which began at midnight on Dec. 22 and is now the longest shutdown in American history — is the contentious result of a budget standoff between Trump and the Democrats. The president wants $5 billion in a federal spending bill to construct a border wall between the United States and Mexico, which is a demand the Democrats have consistently pushed against.
Pelosi, who reportedly had been waiting to depart for her foreign trip on Thursday afternoon when Trump's letter was released, had called on Trump to delay his SOTU address due to the shutdown on Wednesday. In her letter, the House speaker wrote that since the fiscal year of 1977, a SOTU address had never been delivered while a shutdown was in effect.
The government is partially frozen at the moment, which means various federal agencies are not receiving funds to run their operations effectively. Given that situation, Pelosi added that the steps required to ensure the safety of participating members in the SOTU event could not be carried out.
"In September 2018," Pelosi wrote on Wednesday, "Secretary [Kirstjen] Nielsen designated the State of the Union Addresses as National Special Security Events [NSSEs], recognizing the need for 'the full resources of the federal government to be brought to bear' to ensure the security of these events."
Since the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security hadn't received necessary funding for more than three weeks since Dec. 21, 2018, Pelosi wrote that Trump should consider holding the SOTU address on a date preferably after the government shutdown concluded.
But based on his Thursday letter to Pelosi, which The Times described as "sarcastic," it looks like the president opted to retaliate than consider the House speaker's suggestion. It's this kind of impasse that will most likely increase the concern and frustration of the 800,000 federal employees who have yet to be paid for their work.