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UPDATE: Pelosi cancels State of the Union address in House chamber


Trump had said earlier in the day that he still planned on making the speech

Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images

Updated on Jan. 23 at 2:50 p.m.

Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has rescinded her offer for President Donald Trump to give the State of the Union in the House chamber.

Trump had sent Pelosi a letter earlier on Wednesday accepting her invitation to give the State of the Union. This comes despite Pelosi requesting that Trump forgo giving the speech in person this year, due to the ongoing partial government shutdown.

What's the background?

On Jan. 3, shortly after being elected as Speaker of the House of Representatives, Pelosi extended an invitation for Trump to give the State of the Union address from Congress.

On Jan. 16, Pelosi sent Trump a letter asking him to consider giving the address in writing.

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.

While it has been customary for more than a century for presidents to give the State of the Union address in person at Congress, doing so is not legally required. In fact, until 1913 the address was given to Congress in writing. All the Constitution requires is that the president "from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union,"

"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," Pelosi 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."

What did President Trump say?

On Wednesday, President Trump sent a letter to Pelosi informing her that he planned to give the State of the Union in person on Jan. 29. He wrote:

As you know, I had already accepted your kind invitation, however, I then received another letter from you dated January 16, 2019, wherein you expressed concerns regarding security during the State of the Union Address due to the Shutdown. Even prior to asking, I was contacted by the Department of Homeland Security and the United States Secret Service to explain that there would be absolutely no problem regarding security with respect to the event. They have since confirmed this publicly.

He added that his team did not believe there were any security concerns and that he would be "honoring your invitation, and fulfilling my Constitutional duty, to deliver important information to the people and Congress of the United States of America regarding the State of our Union."

He concluded that 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!"

How did Pelosi respond?

In a letter sent after Trump announced that he still planned to give the speech, Pelosi told the president that the invitation was no longer on the table. She wrote, in part:

When I extended an invitation on January 3rd for you to deliver the State of the Union address, it was on the mutually agreed upon date, January 29th. At that time, there was no thought that the government would still be shut down.
In my further correspondence of January 16th, I said we should work together to find a mutually agreeable date when [the] government has re-opened and I hope that we can still do that.
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 the government has opened.
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