The latest casualty of the partial government shutdown might be President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a letter to the president on Wednesday, suggested that the annual speech before Congress be postponed or scrapped altogether in light of the legislative impasse that has led to the ongoing shutdown, the longest in U.S. history.
“Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government re-opens this week,” the speaker wrote, “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 the Congress on January 29th.”
Pelosi’s missive was cloaked in the politesse of a formal communication from the leader of one branch of government to another. But it was nothing less than a threat to deploy Pelosi’s authority as speaker to deny Trump the use of perhaps the country’s most powerful pulpit in the middle of a partisan standoff.
With the shutdown nearing the one-month mark and both parties dug in, it is easy to imagine Trump using the perch of the House rostrum to browbeat congressional Democrats for an hour on national TV—a longer and more visually dynamic version of the Oval Office address he delivered, to little effect, last week. Without the speech, however, he would lose the single best opportunity a president gets each year to pitch his agenda both to Congress and the public, as well as to frame the national debate entirely on his terms.