Trump says he'll put off State of the Union address until after shutdown

US President Donald Trump. (Evan Vucci, AP, File)
US President Donald Trump. (Evan Vucci, AP, File)

President Donald Trump said he would deliver his State of the Union address when the partial government shutdown is over, clarifying his plans hours after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blocked him from delivering the speech in the chamber while federal agencies are closed.

"As the Shutdown was going on, Nancy Pelosi asked me to give the State of the Union Address. I agreed," Trump said in the Twitter post.

"She then changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date. This is her prerogative - I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over."

Trump added that he was no longer looking for "an alternative venue" for the speech, an option he had discussed with reporters earlier in the day.

"There is no venue that can compete with the history, tradition and importance of the House Chamber," the president said in one of the tweets. "I look forward to giving a 'great' State of the Union Address in the near future!"

The address, usually delivered with considerable fanfare before both houses of Congress, Supreme Court justices, cabinet officers and other dignitaries, had been scheduled for next Tuesday.

In a letter to Trump on Wednesday, the speaker said that when she invited the president to give the address, "there was no thought that the government would still be shut down."

"I look forward to welcoming you to the House on a mutually agreeable date for this address when government has been opened," said Pelosi, a California Democrat.

Her letter was in response to a letter from Trump saying that he intended to come to the House and give the speech despite her suggestion that he hold off until the funding impasse over his demands for money for a wall on the Mexican border had been resolved.

The Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate must pass a joint resolution to allow the president to deliver the State of the Union address. The measure is usually a formality, voted on shortly before the event. The House, however, won’t consider such a resolution, Pelosi said in her letter.

The letters between the White House and the Capitol marked a further escalation of the feud between the two leaders. "The State of the Union speech has been canceled by Nancy Pelosi because she doesn’t want to hear the truth," the president said at the White House earlier on Wednesday.

The president last week denied Pelosi a military plane for an unannounced trip to visit US troops in Afghanistan a day after she suggested a delay in the speech.

Pelosi then accused the administration of endangering her safety by leaking her plan to take a commercial flight to Afghanistan.

A White House official, who refused to be identified, denied the administration leaked the information about the commercial flight.

The acrimony has added to the difficulty of reaching an agreement to end the standoff, which began on December 22.

Trump made his announcement a day before the Senate was scheduled to vote on two rival resolutions to reopen the government.

One is Trump’s plan that includes $5.7bn for border wall funding. The other is a Democratic proposal to reopen agencies through February 8 while negotiations proceed on how to better secure the border.

Each proposal would require 60 votes to advance in the Senate, which the GOP controls 53-47.

Trump has promised to veto any measure that doesn’t fund the wall. Democrats likely have the votes to block his bill, while the Democratic proposal would need support from at least 13 Republicans to move forward. A failure to advance either bill would mean the shutdown, now in its 34th day, will continue.

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