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Nate Jackson / January 24, 2019

Pelosi’s SOTU Shutdown

The speaker has denied the president access to the House for the annual address.

“Trump caves.” “Pelosi wins.” Those are the types of headlines circulating today after President Donald Trump announced Wednesday night, “As the Shutdown was going on, Nancy Pelosi asked me to give the State of the Union Address. I agreed. She then changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date. This is her prerogative — I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over. I am not looking for an alternative venue for the SOTU Address because there is no venue that can compete with the history, tradition and importance of the House Chamber. I look forward to giving a ‘great’ State of the Union Address in the near future!”

This back and forth has now continued for more than a week as the two continue to tussle over the 34-day-old partial government shutdown, now the longest in history. (Meanwhile, 800,000 government workers will almost certainly miss another paycheck Friday.) Trump sent Pelosi a letter announcing his intent to accept her original invitation to give the SOTU on Jan. 29. She responded with a letter denying the president access to the House chamber.

Trump’s concession was, for him, remarkably magnanimous. He entertained suggestions to give the speech from the Oval Office, the Senate chamber, the border, or some other venue — any of which arguably would have elevated the address by setting it apart from the increasingly pompous spectacle it has become. What better way to “drain the Swamp” than to blow up an unnecessary and vacuous tradition? It would seem, however, that Trump the Showman determined that conceding this battle may help him win the war.

Yet how that victory will come is not at all evident. Democrats are reportedly ready to reopen the government and give Trump $5.7 billion for border security with one huge caveat: The money isn’t for a wall. Given that Democrats have already rejected Trump’s concessions on Dreamers, it’s clear they’re negotiating in bad faith. Perhaps Trump is calculating that the more disruption is caused by the shutdown — like no SOTU — the more likely Democrats are to eventually cave. But Pelosi has called the border wall “immoral” and we’re inclined to think she’d rather not sit behind Trump sucking her teeth in defeat while he exults in his triumph at the podium. So where this goes from here is anyone’s guess.

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