By Brooke Singman
Published January 16, 2019
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took the extraordinary step Wednesday of urging President Trump to delay his State of the Union address until the partial government shutdown ends, or submit the address in writing.
The president has been slated to deliver his televised annual address to a Joint Session of Congress on Jan. 29. But with no compromise in sight to resolve the standoff over government funding -- a stalemate that extended into its 26th day, with the impact deepening for furloughed federal workers and others -- Pelosi, D-Calif., suggested Trump put those plans on hold.
“On January 3rd, it was my privilege as Speaker to invite you to deliver the State of the Union address on January 29. The Constitution calls for the President ‘from time to time give the Congress Information of the State of the Union,” Pelosi wrote, but noted 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.”
She concluded: “Sadly, given the security concerns and unless the 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 your State of the Union address in writing to Congress on January 29.”
Pelosi detailed the need for proper security at events such as the State of the Union, citing comments made by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen who recognized the “need for the full resources of the Federal Government to be brought to bear” to “ensure the security of these events.”
“The U.S. Secret Service was designated as the lead federal agency responsible for coordinating, planning, exercising, and implementing security for National Special Security Events…” Pelosi wrote. “However, both the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security have not been funded for 26 days now – with critical departments hamstrung by furloughs.”
A senior Homeland Security official later told Fox News, however, that they have been preparing for months for the State of the Union event.
"We are ready," the official said. "Despite the fact members of the Secret Service are not being paid, the protective mission has not changed."
The official added: "It is a 'no fail' mission."
Despite Pelosi's suggestion to come to an agreement on a new date, Pelosi did not rescind the president’s invitation. That decision ultimately rests with her, as speaker of the House.
The address, historically, has not always been delivered in person. Thomas Jefferson started the practice of submitting the address in writing, and it was not until Woodrow Wilson's administration that the speech was delivered in person again.
Pelosi’s letter to the White House comes as the shutdown, the longest in history, has left more than 800,000 federal employees and contractors without pay. Some employees are deemed essential to government functions and are required to work without pay. Others have been furloughed, and also do not receive paychecks.
The government first ran out of funding on Dec. 22, as the president requested $5.7 billion in funding for border security and construction of a border wall or physical barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border, citing an “invasion” and a “humanitarian crisis.”
Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have vowed to block any spending proposal that includes funding for a wall.
Negotiations between Democrats and the president have grown increasingly contentious. Last week, a tense White House meeting ended abruptly, with the president walking out of the room after Pelosi maintained that she would not accept a spending package with wall funding.
Pelosi, after the meeting, said Trump was "petulant," and Schumer added that Trump slammed his hand on a table in frustration and had a "temper tantrum" -- a claim Trump, Vice President Pence and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., later denied.
This week, Trump, instead, decided not to invite Pelosi to a border security meeting at the White House, but reached out to other rank-and-file Democrats to join his lunch with Republican members of Congress. All of the Democrats invited declined the president's invitation.
"The President offered both Democrats and Republicans the chance to meet for lunch at the White House," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement Tuesday. "Unfortunately, no Democrats will attend...It's time for Democrats to come to the table and make a deal."
Sanders added that Pelosi and Schumer "refuse to negotiate."
However, some Democrats -- including Reps. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J.; Abigail Spanberger, D-Va.; and Vincente Gonzalez, D-Texas -- attended a meeting Wednesday with the Problem Solvers Caucus at the White House.
"There is strong agreement across the aisle and around the country: We must reopen the government. Our security, safety, and economy have been compromised, and millions of families are suffering," they said in a statement Wednesday. "There is also strong agreement that if we reopen the government, the possibility exists to work together and find common ground to tackle some of our country’s toughest problems and fix them. But that conversation can only begin in earnest once the government is reopened."
Sanders on Wednesday said the meeting was "constructive."
"They listened to one another and now both have a good understanding of what the other wants," Sanders said in a statement. "We look forward to more conversations like this."
Meanwhile, Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Chris Coons, D-Del., are leading a bipartisan effort urging the president to support legislation ending the shutdown in the short-term to give Congress more time to address his border security request.
In a draft letter to the White House obtained by Fox News, Graham and Coons "respectfully requested" that the president support a short-term continuing resolution of three weeks, to re-open the government and "give Congress time to develop and vote on a bipartisan agreement that addresses your request," including "debating and voting on investments on the Southern border."
Congressional aides told Fox News that the senators were still gathering signatures in support of their proposal.
The president has repeatedly said he is willing to "compromise," calling that a "win" for everyone involved. But Trump continues to insist on a border wall, even threatening to declare a national emergency over the lack of funding for border security. This week, the president warned of a "big new Caravan" heading up to the Southern Border from Honduras.
"Tell Nancy and Chuck that a drone flying around will not stop them. Only a Wall will work. Only a Wall, or Steel Barrier, will keep our Country safe! Stop playing political games and end the Shutdown!"
Trump and Pelosi have clashed several times throughout the partial shutdown, with the House speaker on Tuesday blasting the president for holding the paychecks of hundreds of thousands of federal employees "hostage."
Meanwhile, House Democrats have tried to pressure the Senate to take up bills funding parts of the government, to no avail. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., announced Tuesday that if the government remains shut down, the House will not have its planned recess next week.
"If the government is not open, we will not have a recess," Hoyer told reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday. "That does not mean we will be here every day, members will be on 24 hours notice. We'll have some votes next week...we'll be here next week to do business."
Fox News' John Roberts, Mike Emanuel and Chad Pergram contributed to this report.
EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this report misidentified the state that Rep. Abigail Spanberger represents.