Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (R-Calif.) asked President Donald Trump on Wednesday to delay his State of the Union address or submit it in writing instead.
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In a letter to Trump, Pelosi noted that the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security were no longer being funded during the shutdown, "with critical departments hamstrung by furloughs."
Sadly, given the security concerns and unless 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 the Congress on January 29th.
Pelosi noted that while the Constitution requires that the president "from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union," it does not require him to actually make the speech in person to Congress. While some presidents, including Washington, had given this address in person sporadically, it was Woodrow Wilson who started the modern tradition of addressing Congress in person in 1913.
"During the 19th Century and up until the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, these annual State of the Union messages were delivered to Congress in writing," she wrote. "And since the start of modern budgeting in Fiscal Year 1977, a State of the Union address has never been delivered during a government shutdown."
The president is not a member of Congress and does not have the right to speak to Congress without the invitation of the chamber he is addressing. Due to seating constraints in the Senate chamber, for all practical purposes this means that he cannot deliver the State of the Union in person without the invitation of the speaker of the House.
Pelosi had invited Trump to give the State of the Union address shortly after being elected as speaker of the House on Jan. 3. Her Wednesday letter does not expressly rescind this invitation, but rather merely asks President Trump to "work together to determine another suitable date" for the address, or to merely deliver it in writing.
The government shutdown has now reached day 26. Trump has said that he will not sign a deal to reopen the government unless it contains the funding he requested for a border wall. Congress has so far not indicated that it's ready to agree to his demands.