WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said late Wednesday he will delay next week's State of the Union address until the federal government reopens after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi moved to block him from delivering the speech inside the House chamber until an agreement is reached to end the monthlong shutdown.
“I am not looking for an alternative venue for the SOTU Address because there is no venue that can compete with the history, tradition and importance of the House Chamber,” Trump tweeted. “I look forward to giving a ‘great’ State of the Union Address in the near future!”
Trump started off Wednesday vowing to move ahead with plans to deliver his Jan. 29 prime-time address before a joint session of Congress, rejecting Pelosi's earlier recommendation that he hold off on giving the speech until the monthlong shutdown came to an end.
In a letter to Pelosi sent Wednesday afternoon, Trump said: "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!"
He pushed back on Pelosi's argument that the event should be rescheduled because of security concerns that she said stemmed from the fact that U.S. Secret Service agents were among the 800,000 federal employees who have been working without pay since the onset of the government shutdown.
“Accordingly, there are no security concerns regarding the State of the Union Address,” Trump wrote, citing assertions from the Department of Homeland Security officials that the agency was equipped to secure the event. “Therefore, I will 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.”
To deliver the speech before a joint session of Congress, Trump needs both the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican majority Senate to approve a resolution inviting him to speak before both chambers. There is no constitutional requirement for the speech to be held before a joint session of Congress, and before the advent of television and radio, generations of presidents delivered their State of the Union to lawmakers in writing.
Hours after Trump issued his letter to Pelosi, she shot back with her own letter, telling Trump the House "will not consider" legislation authorizing the speech to take place in the House chamber on Jan. 29, effectively blocking him from using the historic chamber where dozens of Trump's predecessors have outlined their visions for the country before lawmakers, the president's cabinet, the Supreme Court and other dignitaries.
"I look forward to welcoming you to the House on a mutually agreeable date for the address when government has been opened," Pelosi wrote to Trump.
The president speaking to reporters at the White House, called the change "a great blotch on the incredible country that we all love."
The back-and-forth between Trump and Pelosi underscored the ongoing fight between both leaders over how to end the shutdown. Pelosi and Democrats have been pressing Trump to reopen the government without his $5.7 billion demand for border wall funding. Trump has said he will veto any legislation that does not include the full amount of his request.
Pelosi's initial letter to Trump prompted the president to revoke her access to a military plane for a planned trip to visit troops in Afghanistan with other Democratic members of Congress. Her office accused Trump of endangering Pelosi and lawmakers by breaking protocol and revealing her plans to visit a war zone.
With uncertainty surrounding the location of the speech, White House officials this week floated the possibility of Trump delivering the speech from the Oval Office or away from the nation's capital. Trump's aides had started preparing two versions of the address — one to be delivered before Congress, one to be delivered outside of the D.C. Beltway area.