UPDATED: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called for President Donald Trump to postpone or cancel his upcoming Very Big TV Moment – aka the State of the Union Address – due to security concerns caused by his partial shutdown of the government.
“It was my privilege as Speaker to invite you to deliver the State of the Union address on January 29,” she said in a letter to POTUS, in which she noted the annual update is a constitutional requirement of the president. It it up to the House Speaker whether POTUS gets to come to deliver the address before the joint session of Congress.
“Both the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security have not been funded for 26 days now – with critical departments hamstrung by furloughs,” she scolded in the letter.
“Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government re-opens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after the 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 noted that the annual assessment by the President was delivered in writing to Congress until Woodrow Wilson’s presidency.
The SOTU address is, even in the best of times, considered a higher risk situation in Washington owing to the number of people in the federal government under one roof. A designated survivor, typically a cabinet member, is selected every year to sit it out at a distant, secret location while the speechifying is attended by Veep and others who are normally next in line.
In the halls of Congress this afternoon, Pelosi told reporters Trump can deliver his speech from the Oval Office if he wants. More to the point, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer declared “The State Of The Union Is Off.”
Pelosi’s letter hit Trump in his vulnerable spot: TV ratings. His first SOTU Address clocked nearly 46M viewers across a dozen outlets and not counting streaming – a very big crowd, though shy of the 48M who tuned in to Barack Obama’s first SOTU and the 52M who watched George W. Bush’s post-9/11 first SOTU in 2002 on eight outlets.
On the other hand, she may have done him a favor, given polling that shows the majority of Americans blame Trump for the government shutdown. Optically, the address would have been tough for Pelosi’s party too, as Trump was sure to spend much of his speech pounding Dems.