- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested moving the date of the president’s annual State of the Union address until the partial government shutdown is over, citing security concerns.
- The Department of Homeland Security said they are prepared to secure the Capitol regardless of the shutdown.
- Pelosi then changed her reasoning to focus on how employees would be working without pay, which was not listed in the original letter she sent to President Trump.
WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi backtracked on her reasoning for postponing the State of the Union address on Thursday, suggesting the issue is about payment for federal workers securing the Capitol rather than the security issues she previously cited.
Pelosi informed President Donald Trump in a letter on Wednesday suggesting the State of the Union address – slated for January 29 – be moved “given the security concerns” of having the Department of Homeland Security suffering from the record-long partial government shutdown.
“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 wrote.
But on Thursday, after Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced that the US Secret Service and DHS “are fully prepared to support and secure the State of the Union,” Pelosi changed her tune to focus on whether those employees will be paid.
The continuation of government is the reason for all of the security as well as the power that is in the room,” Pelosi told reporters on Thursday. “I have no doubt that our men and women in the federal workforce have a capability to protect [the attendees].”
“They’re professionals. They trained for this. They should be paid for this,” she added. “And that’s why I said to the president, if you don’t open up government, if that doesn’t happen, then let’s discuss a mutually agreeable date.”
Pelosi also pushed back on the assertion that she was “denying a platform” to Trump by suggesting the State of the Union be moved or instead submitted in writing, as was customary until early in the 20th century.
“Let’s pay the employees. Maybe he thinks it’s ok not to pay people who do work,” She said. “I don’t and my caucus doesn’t either.”
Pelosi added that she consulted with Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, and that “he agrees that we should go forward in this way.”
“It isn’t a question of whether they are professional enough,” Pelosi said. “Why even take it there? The question is, they should be paid. And as secretary of any agency, that person should be advocating for her employees to be paid instead of saying it’s OK for them to work without pay.”
Whether she would not allow the State of the Union to go forward if Trump does not agree to her demands, which as speaker Pelosi has the power to do, she said, “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” noting the White House has not responded to her letter.
“The date of the State of the Union is not a sacred date, it’s not constitutionally required, it’s not the president’s birthday, it’s not anything,” Pelosi said. “It is a date that we agreed to. It could’ve been a week later – and it could be the week later if government is open.”