House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) dramatically raised the stakes in the drag-out shutdown fight on Wednesday by pulling a major power move on President Donald Trump.
As we reported earlier, Pelosi asked President Trump to postpone his Jan. 29 State of the Union address unless the government is reopened by week’s end.
The surprise step, made in a letter to Trump coated in legislative speak, represented a significant power move by Pelosi, who has just begun her second stint as Speaker.
Pelosi warned that staging the speech amid the partial shutdown — which has affected both the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Secret Service — creates security risks for the host of national policymakers and powerbrokers expected to be in attendance.
“Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government reopens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has reopened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to the Congress on Jan. 29,” Pelosi wrote.
Make no mistake. Pelosi’s decision to disinvite Trump from delivering his “State of the Union” address to Congress is a total power play designed to remind Trump that a) Congress is a co-equal branch of government and b) his willingness to keep the government shuttered until he gets money for a border wall is going to have impacts on him, too.
Just in case you missed that message, Pelosi delivered it again in an interview with CNN’s Ashley Killough. “This is a housekeeping matter in the Congress of the United States, so we can honor the responsibility of the invitation we extended to the President,” said Pelosi. “He can make it from the Oval Office if he wants.”
“He can make it from the Oval Office if he wants(!)”
What Pelosi is saying there is, essentially, this: Look, Trump can give a speech if he wants. But we are not giving him the platform of a bipartisan session of Congress to do it unless and until he reopens the government.
And from a logistical standpoint, Pelosi is well within her rights to rescind the invitation.
As noted by CNN’s Phil Mattingly and Ted Barrett:
“It’s the House speaker’s prerogative to invite the President to give the State of the Union. While there’s no precedent for it (that we’re aware of), if Pelosi decides the President shouldn’t go to the Capitol to speak on January 29, the President will not go on January 29.
Keep in mind, in order to green light the State of the Union, both the House and the Senate have to pass resolutions. Neither have done so yet — and Pelosi controls whether the House passes one at all.”
It’s in keeping with her repeated and pointed emphasis — in public and private — that the new Democratic majority in the House stands on equal footing with Trump, and will remind him of that fact whenever she/they deem it necessary.”
In her initial letter inviting Trump to deliver the “State of the Union” on January 29, Pelosi made sure to note: “The Constitution established the legislative, executive and judicial branches as co-equal branches of government, to be a check and balance on each other.”
When asked by The New York Times earlier this month whether she considered herself to be Trump’s equal, Pelosi responded: “The Constitution does.”