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Trump still plans State of the Union, but some Dems back Pelosi on delay

Rep. T.J. Cox, D-Calif., speaks to KMPH from Capitol Hill on Jan. 23, 2019. (KMPH)

President Donald Trump is going to deliver a speech to the nation next Tuesday night, but where he will be speaking is still up in the air.

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Wednesday, the president reaffirmed his intent to deliver his State of the Union address on Jan. 29 from the House chamber, as has been traditional for decades.

“I will be honoring your invitation, and fulfilling my Constitutional duty, to deliver important information to the people and Congress of the United States regarding the State of our Union,” Trump wrote.

Pelosi promptly replied that she had not expected the partial government shutdown to last this long when she invited him on Jan. 3, and the House will not vote on a resolution authorizing the address until the government reopens.

“I look forward to welcoming you to the House on a mutually agreeable date for this address when government has been reopened,” she said.

Trump shrugged off that response in comments to the press on Wednesday afternoon.

"I'm not surprised," he said. "It's really a shame what's happening with the Democrats. They've become radicalized."

Asked by reporters what happens if Trump shows up at the Capitol anyway Tuesday, Pelosi said he would have to speak outside.

Last week, Pelosi sent a letter encouraging the president to delay the address until after the shutdown is resolved because the Secret Service officers assigned to protect the event would not be receiving paychecks.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen responded that DHS is prepared to fully secure the event despite the shutdown.

“Homeland Security has already said that’s a fallacy,” Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Ill.

However, Rep. T.J. Cox, D-Calif., said Wednesday the issue is not just whether the agency is capable of providing security but whether its officers should be required to work what he called “the number one security event in America” under these circumstances.

“I frankly think it is so unfair for all of us to convene and the security people aren’t getting paid for that,” he said. “We can’t expect them to do their jobs and not be compensated or appreciated for that.”

Congress has already approved backpay for federal workers impacted by the shutdown, but they will not get that money until it is over and nobody knows when that will be.

Cox expects Trump will use the address to repeat the arguments he has made many times before in favor of a border wall, but he doubts the president’s words will be any more persuasive than they were when delivered from the Oval Office in a primetime statement earlier this month.

“I think he wants a megaphone to try to make a case again to the American people, but we know the American people don’t agree,” Cox said.

Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., noted the Constitution does not mandate the format or location of the State of the Union, but he said it should be up to Trump, not Pelosi, to decide how and where to do it.

“My thoughts on that are the president has the right to deliver his annual message to the Congress any way he wants to,” Hill said.

Democrats seemed unmoved by Trump's desire to speak from the House.

“We all know what the state of our union is. We don’t need @POTUS to tell us what it is. What we need is for him to grow a spine, stop pandering to right-wing media shills, and open up the government,” said Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., on Twitter

“As the son of a cop, I deeply respect our law enforcement officers. No cop should have to work without pay to protect a ‘national security event’ speech. Let’s open up government. Until then, don’t risk your lives for free for me,” tweeted Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.

According to The Washington Post, the White House had been preparing for both a U.S. Capitol address and one from somewhere outside Washington. It is unclear if Trump’s letter means the backup plan has been completely abandoned, but the governor of West Virginia invited the president to deliver his speech in the state Capitol building there Wednesday.

“Giving the speech in a state full of people who love their country would truly reflect his focus on the forgotten men and women of America,” Gov. Jim Justice said in a news release.

Trump’s letter to Pelosi indicated he is fully committed to speaking in the House chamber, though.

"It would be so very sad for our country, if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, on schedule, and very importantly, on location!" he wrote.

Pelosi and House Democrats still have the final word. The House and Senate need to pass a resolution to allow Trump to speak, and it is unclear what Trump’s next move is if Pelosi declines to hold that vote.

"It's absolutely not clear in terms of what his present intention is, but I can say that unless the government is reopened, it's highly unlikely the State of the Union is going to take place on the floor of the United States House of Representatives," said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries at a Democratic leadership news conference Wednesday.

According to CNN, Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer advised Democratic members during a caucus meeting Wednesday not to invite their families for Tuesday’s speech, suggesting they do not expect it to happen.

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