The top Democrat in Congress on Wednesday urged President Donald Trump to postpone his upcoming annual State of the Union address, citing security shortcomings due to the ongoing partial government shutdown.
Trump was due to deliver his speech, in which a president lays out his legislative agenda and provides an economic status report to the nation, on January 29.
“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 (it) in writing to the Congress on January 29th,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a letter to the president.
The United States is in the grips of its longest-ever government shutdown, with about 25 per cent of federal agencies and offices shuttered.
The US Secret Service, which is charged with the protection of the president, provides security for what are known as national special security events, including the State of the Union.
“However, both the US Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security have not been funded for 26 days now -– with critical departments hamstrung by furloughs,” Pelosi noted in her letter.
She also said that “since the start of modern budgeting in Fiscal Year 1977, a State of the Union address has never been delivered during a government shutdown.”
The notion that Trump, a billionaire businessman who dramatically boosted his national prominence through his reality television show “The Apprentice,” would send in a written version of his address seems quaint in today’s screen-dominated digital era.
But Pelosi pointed out that up until Woodrow Wilson’s presidency in the early 20th century, “these annual State of the Union messages were delivered to Congress in writing.”