Trump’s state of the union address in doubt over shutdown

Nancy Pelosi tells US president address has never been delivered during a shutdown

About 25 per cent of federal agencies have been partially shut down by a lack of funding since December 22 after US president Donald Trump demanded $5.7 billion from Congress to build his long-promised wall on the US-Mexico border.

 

US president Donald Trump has been urged to reschedule the annual state of the union address because of the ongoing government shutdown, which entered its 26th day on Wednesday.

In a letter to the president, House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi told Mr Trump that the address has never been delivered during a 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,” she wrote.

She noted that the annual address by the president was delivered in writing during the 19th century.

The state of the union address is typically given by US presidents in January each year, and carried live on prime-time TV. It is one of the few occasions when presidents visit Congress. This year’s address was scheduled to take place on January 29th, but preparations in Congress have stalled.

In a riposte to the Ms Pelosi, homeland security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said her department and the US Secret Service were “fully prepared to support and secure the state of the union” address.

The partial government shutdown began on December 22nd after Mr Trump insisted he would not sign legislation funding the relevant government agencies unless it included more than $5 billion for a Mexican border wall. Democrats in Congress have refused to accede to the demand.

‘Constructive’ meeting

Mr Trump hosted seven Democratic members of Congress for a meeting in the White House situation room on Wednesday, a move that was seen by some as an effort to bypass Ms Pelosi and stoke divisions within the party. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the meeting had been “constructive”.

On Capitol Hill, Republican Lindsey Graham and Democrat Chris Coons circulated a letter in the Senate calling for the president to back a three-week stopgap funding measure that would re-open the government and give lawmakers time to come up with a bipartisan agreement.

Speaking on the Senate steps alongside workers who have been affected by the shutdown, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer called on Mr Trump to end the shutdown. “Mr President, look at the pain and suffering you’re causing,” he said.

On Tuesday the White House announced it would summon tens of thousands of federal employees back to work without pay in order to keep parts of the government system working. More than 40,000 workers at the Inland Revenue Service (IRS) have been instructed to come back to work as preparations increase for the tax-filing season.

The Federal Aviation Authority also ordered workers to come back to work, even though they are not being paid.

Denouncing Democrats

On Wednesday Mr Trump repeated his insistence that a border wall was needed.

“There are now 77 major or significant Walls built around the world, with 45 countries planning or building Walls,” he posted on Twitter. “Over 800 miles of Walls have been built in Europe since only 2015. They have all been recognized as close to 100% successful. Stop the crime at our Southern Border!”

In a separate tweet he denounced the Democrats as a party that supports open borders and crime.

“It is becoming more and more obvious that the Radical Democrats are a Party of open borders and crime. They want nothing to do with the major Humanitarian Crisis on our Southern Border. #2020,” he tweeted, in reference to next year’s presidential election.