Donald Trump has said he will wait until the government shutdown is over before giving his State of the Union address because nowhere could compete with the “history and tradition” of the House chamber.
House speaker Nancy Pelosi told the president earlier on Wednesday that she would block him from delivering the speech in the House chamber until the government has reopened.
It led to speculation that Trump could instead make his address from the Oval Office, the Senate chamber or even the Mexican border.
But on Wednesday night he said he was not considering any other venues “because there is no venue that can compete with the history, tradition and importance of the House Chamber. He added that he looked forward to giving a “great” speech “in the near future.
As the Shutdown was going on, Nancy Pelosi asked me to give the State of the Union Address. I agreed. She then changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date. This is her prerogative — I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over. I am not looking for an….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 24 января 2019 г.
The standoff over federal funding for Trump’s proposed border wall intensified after Pelosi told the president of her decision.
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,” the House speaker wrote in a letter to the US president on Wednesday.
“I look forward to welcoming you to the House on a mutually agreeable date for this address when government has been opened.”
Passage of a resolution is required before the president can speak in the House. The speech had been set for 29 January.
Earlier the president told reporters he was “not surprised” by Pelosi’s decision not to authorize his State of the Union address during the shutdown. “It’s really a shame what’s happening with the Democrats. They’ve become radicalized,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
“They don’t want to see crime stopped, which we could very easily do on the southern border. He added of the shutdown: “This will go on for a while.”
Trump had previously all but dared Pelosi to uninvite him in a letter released by the White House on Wednesday, in which the president said he was “looking forward” to giving the speech, an annual event in American politics.
“It would be so very sad for our country if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, on schedule, and very importantly, on location!” Trump wrote.
The longest shutdown in US history has now dragged on into its second month. The partial shutdown affects about 25% of the federal government, has left 800,000 government workers without pay cheques and has had a damaging effect on a range of agencies and services from the IRS to the FBI and national parks.
Pelosi urged the president last week to postpone the event, citing security concerns amid the shutdown. She said Trump could otherwise deliver his speech in writing.
In a tit-for-tat response, Trump cancelled a congressional delegation, led by Pelosi, to Afghanistan, marking an escalation of the standoff between the two sides.
They remain locked in an increasingly personal standoff over Trump’s demand for $5.7bn in funding for his border wall, which forced the shutdown.
The president cannot speak in front of a joint session of Congress without both chambers’ explicit permission. A resolution needs to be approved by both chambers specifying the date and time for receiving an address from the president.
The Republican leader in the House, Kevin McCarthy, said the address should be “in the House chamber as we have always done. This is not the time to play politics.”
Trump said the homeland security department and the Secret Service assured him there would be “absolutely no problem regarding security” for the State of the Union and “they have since confirmed this publicly”.
Officials had been considering potential alternative venues for the 29 January speech, including a rally-style event, an Oval Office address – as Pelosi previously suggested – a speech in the Senate chamber, and even a visit to the Mexican border. Multiple versions of the speech were being drafted to suit the final venue.
The constitution states only that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the State of the Union”, meaning the president can speak anywhere he chooses or give his update in writing.
But a joint address in the House chamber, in front of lawmakers from both parties, the supreme court justices and invited guests, provides the kind of grand backdrop that is hard to mimic and that this president, especially, enjoys.