House Speaker Nancy Pelosi renewed her call Thursday to delay the State of the Union address, saying the date is not “sacred” and President Trump should wait to deliver his message to the nation until the partial government shutdown ends.
The president, for his part, fired back minutes later during a missile-defense speech at the Pentagon as he alleged the Democrats have been "hijacked" by the fringe and Pelosi is holding up talks.
"While many Democrats in the House and Senate would like to make a deal, Speaker Pelosi will not let them negotiate," Trump said. "The party has been hijacked by the open-borders fringe within the party. The radical left becoming the radical Democrats. Hopefully, Democratic lawmakers will step forward to do what is right for our country, and what is right for our country is border security at the strongest level."
On day 27 of the shutdown, the rhetoric continues to show both sides of the standoff refusing to step off their positions that triggered the funding lapse shortly before the holidays last month. Trump wants nearly $6 billion for a border wall, while Pelosi and the Democrats now describe such a project as immoral, and the two sides have been unable to strike a deal that both bridges their differences and re-opens a slew of shuttered agencies. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers have been furloughed or are working without pay in the meantime.
The debate over the State of the Union address is the latest twist in the rocky, at-times nonexistent, negotiations.
The president has been slated to deliver the annual televised address to a Joint Session of Congress on Jan. 29. But with no compromise in sight, Pelosi suggested Wednesday that Trump either delay the speech until the standoff resolves or deliver it in writing.
“The date of the State of the Union is not a sacred date. It’s not constitutionally required. It’s not the president’s birthday. It’s just a date we agreed to,” Pelosi told reporters during a press conference on Capitol Hill Thursday. “That’s why I said to the president, if you don’t open up government, let’s discuss a mutually agreeable date.”
She added: “It could be a week later—if the government is reopened.”
In her letter to the president, Pelosi cited security concerns and the need for proper protection at events such as the State of the Union to ensure the “continuation of government.”
But senior Homeland Security officials fired back, saying that despite the fact that their personnel have not been paid, they have been preparing for months for the State of the Union event.
“We are ready,” one official told Fox News Wednesday. “Despite the fact members of the Secret Service are not being paid, the protective mission has not changed.”
When asked if Pelosi was denying Trump a platform by suggesting a delay in date, the House speaker said: “No, I am not denying him a platform at all by saying let’s get a date when the government is open.”
“He thinks it is okay not to pay people who do work,” Pelosi said. “I don’t.”
Trump, meanwhile, has been mum on the matter of the State of the Union date and, according to Pelosi's office, has not responded to the letter.
But House Republicans criticized Pelosi for even suggesting the State of the Union be rescheduled.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said it was “unbecoming of the speaker to do this.”
While House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., urged the president to press forward with the speech.
“For Nancy Pelosi to withdraw the offer shows insecurity on their part and that they can’t defend their open borders policy,” Scalise told reporters Wednesday. “The country deserves to hear from the president…to think the speaker would lock the doors and prevent people from hearing from the president of the United States.”
Scalise was asked whether he thought Pelosi was simply trying to get into the president’s head in the midst of negotiations, to which he replied: “I think he’s already gotten into her head—that she’s on the wrong side of this issue.”
But on Thursday, Pelosi stressed the importance of border security, outlining what the Democrats consider a better solution than the president’s promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We over and over again put forth an agenda for protecting our border,” Pelosi said. “I’m not for a wall.”
“Ninety percent of the drugs coming over the border come through the ports of entry,” she continued. “Let’s build the infrastructure at the ports of entry or increase them … increase personnel.”
Pelosi said there was a “bipartisan agreement to … protect the border in other ways.”
But the president has remained insistent on delivering his campaign promise of building a wall. He has cited a “humanitarian crisis” and “invasion” at the border for the need for funding to begin construction.
Meanwhile, the shutdown, which is now the longest in U.S. history, has left more than 800,000 federal workers and contractors without pay. Some federal employees have been deemed essential to government function and are required to work without pay. Others have been furloughed, but still are left unpaid.
Fox News' Chad Pergram and John Roberts contributed to this report.