Republicans blast Democrats call to delay State of Union
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tried to raise the political stakes on the partial government shutdown Wednesday by telling President Trump to postpone his State of the Union address, arguing that it’s too dangerous to give a speech to a joint session of Congress with the Secret Service working without pay.
Government officials rebutted her claims, saying they are “fully prepared” for the speech as planned Jan. 29 but the mere fact that Mrs. Pelosi called for postponing an event two weeks away was a signal that the shutdown may drag on at least that long.
Attempts were made Wednesday to resolve the impasse. Mr. Trump met with the congressional Problem Solvers Caucus and another bipartisan group on Capitol Hill. One idea proposed was a weekslong timeout to reopen the government and try to find a deal on border wall funding.
But key Republicans doubted the timeout idea would gain traction, and there was little sign of substantive progress elsewhere.
“Unless there’s an agreement reached that includes a wall, he’s not going to give in,” said Sen. John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican who flew with Mr. Trump aboard Air Force One this week. “On this issue, the president is a carnivore.”
The shutdown is nearing the end of its fourth week. The White House said it has made two offers one of them it has publicly revealed but has received no counteroffers from Democrats. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York insisted that Democrats did make a counteroffer, but he wouldn’t detail it for reporters Wednesday.
Without new funding, hundreds of thousands of federal government employees are on furlough and hundreds of thousands of “essential” employees are working with their paychecks delayed until the shutdown ends. The shutdown covers nine departments, including Homeland Security, which oversees the Secret Service.
Mrs. Pelosi said the funding difficulties have hamstrung the department, which was her reasoning for a postponement of the State of the Union address.
“Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government re-opens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date,” she said in a letter to Mr. Trump. She said the annual speech is deemed a special security event and places “extraordinary demands” on the government, requiring weeks of planning among dozens of agencies.
By tradition, the State of the Union is delivered each year to a joint session of Congress in the House chamber. The speaker officially invites the president though they usually agree ahead of time on the date.
Mrs. Pelosi said no State of the Union has been delivered during a government shutdown for the past four decades.
If Mr. Trump wants to go through with the speech as scheduled, she said, he should deliver it from the White House.
Fellow Democrats backed her call for a postponement.
Republicans said it was a cheap ploy.
“I think Speaker Pelosi is playing politics,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, who called the move unbecoming.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen batted aside Mrs. Pelosi’s reasoning, saying her department and the Secret Service are “fully prepared to support and secure the State of the Union.”
Congress approved funding for itself for 2019, so it is operating as usual.
Democrats and Republicans trade blame for the shutdown and debate which side is hurting public employees who are left out of work or without pay. The White House signaled Tuesday that the shutdown could cut into economic growth this quarter.
Yet 4 in 5 people told an ABC/Washington Post poll this weekend that they haven’t felt any effects from the shutdown.
The Trump administration continued to make moves to limit the impact. The Agriculture Department recalled 2,500 employees to temporarily reopen Farm Service Agency offices beginning Thursday to process payments and take care of other immediate priorities.
Mr. Trump also quietly signed into law Wednesday legislation to ensure that all employees including those who have done no work over the past month are paid once the shutdown ends.
The White House said Mr. Trump’s meeting with the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus was constructive.
“They listened to one another, and now both have a good understanding of what the other wants,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “We look forward to more conversations like this.”
But the Democrats at the meeting said their message to Mr. Trump was to agree to immediately reopen the government, putting off his demands for a border wall.
“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,” the Democrats said in a statement.
Another bipartisan effort in the Senate is seeking support for a letter urging Mr. Trump to agree to a three-week pause in the shutdown, giving Congress a chance to debate his border wall request in the usual legislative process.
“We will make our best efforts to negotiate in good faith a resolution on border security,” said Sen. Christopher A. Coons, Delaware Democrat.
Also working on the letter is Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who has forged a curious strong working relationship with Mr. Trump.
But Republican leaders doubted the letter would break the impasse. They pointed to Mrs. Pelosi’s firm “no” to Mr. Trump last week when he asked whether she would agree to allocate money for a border wall if he agreed to reopen the government.
⦁ Dave Boyer contributed to this report.