House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said President Trump’s State of the Union address scheduled for Jan. 29 isn’t a “sacred date” and could easily be postponed over security concerns because of the partial government shutdown.
“It is a date we agreed to,” Pelosi told reporters at her weekly news conference on Thursday. “It could be a week later.”
A reporter asked what she would do if Trump refused to postpone.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Pelosi replied, adding that Trump has been “very silent, more than 24 hours.”
She said the government shutdown, the result of a stalemate between Congress and the Trump administration over funding for Trump’s border wall, has been eroded because government security agents are working without pay.
“The continuation of government is the reason for all of the security, as well as the power that is in the room,” Pelosi said. “They trained for this. They should be paid for this.”
And she rejected accusations that she was denying the president a venue to address the nation.
“I’m not denying him a platform at all. Let’s get a date when government is open, let’s pay the employees,” she said. “Maybe he thinks it’s OK not to pay people who do work. I don’t. My caucus doesn’t either.”
Trump didn’t mention the State of the Union during a speech at the Pentagon, but blamed Democrats for the shutdown.
“The federal government remains shut down because congressional Democrats refuse to approve border security,” he said. “We are going to have powerful, strong border security.”
Pelosi said Democrats are not against border security and called for increasing security personnel and technology to detect guns, drugs and other contraband at ports of entry at the border.
“I’m not for a wall,” she said forcefully.
The House speaker accused the Trump administration of not being concerned with the plights of federal workers as the shutdown entered its 27th day.
“They’re not appreciated by the administration,” Pelosi said. “These workers make a difference in the lives of American people”
She sent Trump a letter on Wednesday asking him to postpone his State of the Union address until after the partial government shutdown ends, cautioning about security concerns because federal employees are off work.
“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 said in the letter.
Pelosi on Thursday said she hasn’t heard back from the White House.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, she said that “hundreds of people” are required to secure the Capitol for the annual address.
“Most of those people are either furloughed or victims of the president’s shutdown. The point is security. He can make it from the Oval Office,” she said.
But Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wrote that her agency and the Secret Service are prepared.
“The Department of Homeland Security and the US Secret Service are fully prepared to support and secure the State of the Union. We thank the Service for their mission focus and dedication and for all they do each day to secure our homeland,” Nielsen wrote.
It’s unclear whether Trump can appear before a joint session of Congress without Pelosi’s OK.
While Pelosi invited Trump to speak, a resolution supporting that invitation has to be passed by both the House and Senate, and neither chamber has taken that vote yet.
“We’ll have to have a security evaluation, but that would mean diverting resources,” Pelosi told reporters. “I don’t know how that could happen.”
Sen. Rand Paul on Thursday suggested Trump give the address, but do it in the Senate chambers instead of the House.
“If Mrs. Pelosi refuses to allow the president to deliver the State of the Union in the House, I propose we move it to the Senate and make it happen!” the Kentucky Republican said.
Pelosi, along with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, has been blocking Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion for a wall on the southern border.
The impasse has led to the longest government shutdown in US history.
It is in its 27th day Thursday.
The House has passed legislation that would fund some government agencies but Sen. Mitch McConnell hasn’t brought them to the Senate floor for a vote.
Democratic leaders said they would be willing to open the government and continue debate on Trump’s border barrier.