January 17, 2019
In a January 16 letter to President Donald Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) suggested that the State of the Union address, scheduled for January 29, should be postponed, due to security concerns caused by the partial government shutdown.
The annual statement—which covers the accomplishment and challenges of the current administration and is delivered by the president—is classified as a National Security Event under Public Law 106-544, passed in December 2000. Under that legislation, the U.S. Secret Service is designated as the lead federal agency responsible for coordinating, planning, exercising, and implementing security for the speech.
While the president is not required to deliver the information as a speech, every POTUS since Woodrow Wilson, except Herbert Hoover, has done so, in front of a joint session of Congress. Prior to that time, most presidents delivered the annual communication as a written report.
“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,” Pelosi noted.
“Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government re-opens this week,” she said, “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
The suggestion, which, The Washington Post reported, could deny Trump an opportunity to make his case for border-wall funding in a prime-time televised address, came as White House officials were urgently lobbying Republican senators against signing a bipartisan letter that would urge an end to a shutdown.
The White House had no immediate response.
According to the same Post report, Pelosi later told reporters that the letter was intended as a suggestion and that she was not rescinding the invitation for Trump to speak. “He can make it from the Oval Office if he wants,” she added.
Research contact: @SpeakerPelosi