Trumps delays State of the Union speech until government shutdown ends

United States president Donald Trump backed down late on Wednesday in a spat with Democrats over his State of the Union address, agreeing to delay it until a government shutdown ends, although the more than month-long impasse dragged on.

The US Senate prepared meanwhile on Thursday to hold two showdown votes on measures to reopen the shuttered federal agencies, but Trump’s toxic sparring with House speaker Nancy Pelosi essentially assured no solution was at hand.

An intensifying war of words between the president and Pelosi came to a head Wednesday with the top Democrat effectively blocking Trump from delivering his annual address in Congress until the partial government shutdown, now in its 34th day, is brought to an end.

But in a tweet sent after 11:00 pm, Trump wrote, “As the Shutdown was going on, Nancy Pelosi asked me to give the State of the Union Address. I agreed.”

“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.”

As acrimony in Washington grew, lawmakers across the political spectrum were left searching in vain for an exit strategy for the longest-ever halt to federal operations, as furloughed government employees and contractors vented their fury on Capitol Hill.

The prospects for Trump getting to deliver his national address in Congress next Tuesday as planned were dim, with the Senate votes — one on Trump’s proposal that includes money for his border wall and changes to immigration policy, the other by Democrats seeking to reopen government before negotiating border security — bound to fail.

Traditionally the president’s annual speech is delivered before a joint session of Congress in the ornate chamber of the House of Representatives.


In an effort to force the hand of Pelosi, who had already urged Trump to reschedule due to shutdown-related security shortcomings, the president wrote to her saying it would be “so very sad for our Country” if his speech could not be delivered on time and in the chamber.

Pelosi, who has become the face of Democratic opposition to Trump in Congress, pushed back, informing the president that the House would only agree to host him for his speech “when government has been opened.”

Trump now appears to have capitulated.

After his tweet late Wednesday agreeing to delay his speech, Pelosi tweeted back saying she hopes he agrees to a deal that opens the government.

‘Will work for pay’

The shutdown, which has seen some 800 000 federal employees left without pay for a month, was triggered by Trump’s refusal to sign funding bills in December, in retaliation for Democratic opposition to funds for extending walls along the US-Mexico border.

With the closure of about one quarter of federal agencies affecting millions of Americans, hundreds of unpaid government workers used the power of protest to publicise their plight, holding a sit-in for hours at a congressional office building.

Some held up paper plates with messages including “Will work for pay.”

With no solution in sight, many were bracing for Friday, when they expect to miss their second paycheck in a row.

The House, now controlled by Democrats, has passed multiple bills that would open government, but the Republican-run Senate is aligned with Trump’s push for border wall funding.

The Senate votes have the potential to break the impasse, but since each requires 60 votes to advance in the 100-member chamber, their passage is unlikely.

With both sides locked in their positions, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told the chamber “it’s time to make a deal.”

Even the Senate’s chaplain Barry Black took the rare step of weighing in, sombrely intoning in his opening prayer Wednesday that “as some members of our armed forces seek sustenance at charity food pantries, and prepare to miss a second pay day, something has to give.”

Trump says he will not reopen government before his wall funding comes through.

Most Democrats oppose direct funds for wall construction, but some have begun publicly advocating for negotiating a solution that includes boosted border funding, including for border structures.

“Look, I think physical barriers are part of the solution,” congressman Steny Hoyer, the number two House Democrat, told Fox News.

“We want to make sure that people who come into the United States are authorised to do so,” he added. “We’re for border security and I think we can get there.”

Government shutdowns are a disruptive political ritual that have occurred in various administrations and are almost unique to the American system.

This one is the longest on record, and has left a broad swath of federal workers unpaid — among them airport security officers, FBI agents, museum workers and US Coast Guard personnel.

© Agence France-Presse

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Michael Mathes
Michael Mathes
AFP US politics/Congress correspondent, lifelong human.
Sebastian Smith
Sebastian Smith
AFP White House correspondent. Previously Rio, NYC, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, Paris -- and a couple years at sea.
Advertising

Where is the deputy president?

David Mabuza is hard at work — it’s just not taking place in the public eye. The rumblings and discussion in the ANC are about factions in the ruling party, succession and ousting him

Zuma turns on judiciary as trial nears

Former president says pre-trial correspondence is part of another plot

High court declares Dudu Myeni delinquent

Disgraced former SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni has been declared a delinquent director by the...

SANDF inquiry clears soldiers of the death of Collins Khosa

The board of inquiry also found that it was Khosa and his brother-in-law Thabiso Muvhango who caused the altercation with the defence force members
Advertising

Press Releases

Obituary: Mohammed Tikly

His legacy will live on in the vision he shared for a brighter more socially just future, in which racism and discrimination are things of the past

Openview, now powered by two million homes

The future of free-to-air satellite TV is celebrating having two million viewers by giving away two homes worth R2-million

Road to recovery for the tourism sector: The South African perspective

The best-case scenario is that South Africa's tourism sector’s recovery will only begin in earnest towards the end of this year

What Africa can learn from Cuba in combating the Covid-19 pandemic

Africa should abandon the neoliberal path to be able to deal with Covid-19 and other health system challenges likely to emerge in future

Coexisting with Covid-19: Saving lives and the economy in India

A staggered exit from the lockdown accompanied by stepped-up testing to cover every district is necessary for India right now

Covid-19: Eased lockdown and rule of law Webinar

If you are arrested and fined in lockdown, you do get a criminal record if you pay the admission of guilt fine

Covid-19 and Frontline Workers

Who is caring for the healthcare workers? 'Working together is how we are going to get through this. It’s not just a marathon, it’s a relay'.

PPS webinar Part 2: Small business, big risk

The risks that businesses face and how they can be dealt with are something all business owners should be well acquainted with

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday