Shutdown Showdowns: Pelosi Cancels State of the Union, McConnell Blocks Vote

If you’ve been looking forward to President Trump’s State of the Union address, you might be out of luck. Nancy Pelosi has refused to invite Trump to Congress, meaning he won’t be able to give the speech, at least not in the House chamber. The speech was expected to be delivered on January 29th, but that’s probably not going to happen unless Trump and Democrats make a breakthrough and come to terms on a deal.

And no, Trump can’t simply push ahead with a traditional State of the Union address. As the leader of the House, Pelosi must invite the president before he can give the address. Pelosi has asked the president to reschedule (postpone) the address or deliver it in writing.

Officially, Democrats are citing security concerns. However, it’s also likely that they don’t want to give Trump the opportunity to dress them down in person and to push his agenda. With 2020 fast approaching, politics will rule the day, but in the on-going budget negotiations and other matters, like the address.

And it should come as no surprise that Pelosi is taking a strong confrontational stance. It’s reported that behind closed doors, Pelosi has referred to Trump as the whiner in chief. And in the past, Pelosi has questioned Trump’s manhood. Now, Pelosi is flexing her political muscle and driving a point home: Unlike the Republican House Trump previously enjoyed, the new Congress isn’t afraid of challenging the president.

So what’s the president to do? There’s the option to submit a written letter. In the 1800s, presidents wouldn’t give speeches but would instead send a letter to Congress. Pelosi has suggested the president do the same if he wishes to go ahead with a State of the Union address before the shutdown ends.

However, some have been speculating that Trump could simply hold the address from the Oval Office. This move would be highly unusual, but also classic Trump. The president wouldn’t struggle to draw an audience and could use the opportunity to try to shift blame to Congress, Democrats in particular.

Yet Pelosi isn’t limiting herself to just impeding the State of the Union address. Reportedly, Pelosi has shown increased interest in Trump’s business dealings and relations with Russia. Many speculate that Pelosi could try to use Congress to investigate these issues. Pelosi could even push to impeach the president but the Republican-controlled Senate would likely protect him.

Speaking of the Senate, Pelosi isn’t the only one playing hardball. Mitch McConnell shot down renewed efforts in the Senate to hold a vote on funding. McConnell has made it clear that he won’t support any bill that President Trump will not sign. And Trump has likewise made it clear that he won’t sign any bills that don’t include funding for his border wall.

McConnell has called on Democrats in the House to negotiate with the president. Without Trump’s support, the Senate would need a super majority to block the president’s almost certain veto. There have been some whispers that a few Republican senators are ready to flip on the president and willing to vote to reopen the government, however.

Meanwhile, Democratic star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) took to the House floor to deliver her first speech. While just three minutes long, Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC as she is often referred to, lambasted President Trump. AOC claimed: “It is actually not about a wall, it is not about the border, and it is certainly not about the well-being of everyday Americas. The truth is, this shutdown is about the erosion of American democracy and the subversion of our most basic governmental norms.”

AOC also related the experience of one of her constituents, a Yemeni immigrant who works in air-traffic control. He’s now been working for several weeks without a paycheck. Many other Americans have likewise been showing up to work, but aren’t getting paid for it.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Brian Brinker

Brian Brinker is a political consultant and has an M.A in Global Affairs from American University.

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