Washington: President Donald Trump Thursday announced that he would delay his State of the Union address until a crippling government shutdown ends, backing down in a major spat with the Democrats over his plan to build a controversial border wall along the US-Mexico border.
His announcement came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rescinded an invitation for him to deliver the speech in the House Chamber.
A row between Trump and the Democrats over border security has led to the longest government shutdown in US history. Trump is demanding USD 5.7 billion of congressional funding to build a wall on the US-Mexico border, but newly empowered Democrats have refused.
Some 800,000 federal employees have been going unpaid since December 22 due to the shutdown.
Trump announcing his decision said it was Pelosi’s “prerogative” to suggest a later date.
“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,” Trump said.
“I am not looking for an … alternative venue for the SOTU Address because there is no venue that can compete with the history, tradition and importance of the House Chamber. I look forward to giving a ‘great’ State of the Union Address in the near future!”
On Wednesday House Speaker Nancy Pelosi withdrew an invitation for him to address Congress, saying government services should fully reopen first.
Trump initially said the speech should be “on time, on schedule, and very importantly, on location.”
Trump in a letter to Pelosi on Wednesday had asserted that there are no security concerns as claimed by her in a January 3 letter, and as such he looks forward to seeing her at the Congress on January 29 to deliver his annual State of the Union Address.
On Thursday, Pelosi fired back, telling Trump that “the House of Representatives will not consider a concurrent resolution authorising the President’s State of the Union Address in the House Chamber until government has opened”.
“Again, I look forward to welcoming you to the House on a mutually agreeable date for this address when government has been opened,” she wrote.
Trump and Pelosi have been at loggerheads for more than 33 days as the speaker and the President both refuse to budge on shutdown negotiations.
Pelosi reacted to Trump’s decision by hoping he would back a House-passed bill to reopen the parts of the government shuttered for more than a month.
“Mr President, I hope by saying ‘near future’ you mean you will support the House-passed package to #EndTheShutdown that the Senate will vote on tomorrow,” Pelosi said on Twitter. “Please accept this proposal so we can re-open government, repay our federal workers and then negotiate our differences.”
Pelosi had first asked for the State of the Union, a keynote agenda-setting speech by the president, to be delayed on January 16, citing an unfunded Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security.
In retaliation, Trump last week denied Pelosi use of military planes on a trip to Brussels and Afghanistan – less than an hour before her flight was due to depart.
He asked her to stay to negotiate an end to the partial US government shutdown.
The Senate is set to vote Thursday on two different proposals to end the shutdown, one that was passed by the Democratic-controlled House and one built off Trump’s own proposal presented in a speech on Saturday. White House officials expect both bills will fail. But their hope is that once they do, Democrats will be more amenable to negotiations.