Donald Lambro: Pelosi reminds Trump who lays down the law in the House
There are only two words to describe the state of America’s government at this point in its long history: utter chaos.
Many parts of the government have been shut down for more than a month, hurting 800,000 federal workers who haven’t been paid in at least two weeks in the longest shutdown in the nation’s history.
That is hurting government employees and contractors across the country, and their families, preventing many of them from paying their rent, mortgage and many other household bills, including food.
Americans who are expecting refunds from the Internal Revenue Service aren’t getting the money they expected. Businesses that provide materials and other services for the government haven’t been paid. Communities across the country in which there is a large federal presence are being hurt -- small businesses, stores, lunch counters and the like.
It is reported that hundreds of IRS employees have been given the green light to “skip work” during the partial government shutdown, and take temp jobs elsewhere that federal union leaders say will cause a surge of absences.
Last week, the Trump administration ordered some 30,000 IRS employees to return to work, where they have been processing refunds without pay, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
But with little more than two months remaining before the April tax deadline, the government could be facing a looming revenue crisis.
The reason for this catastrophe? President Trump and Congress remain at an impasse over a partial budget that the president refuses to sign until he gets the $5.7 billion he wants to build a wall along America’s border with Mexico.
The Democratic-controlled House refuses to approve that appropriation because, their leaders maintain, it would be a total waste of money, saying that present fencing and many other security measures, including thousands of border security personnel, are more than sufficient.
But as serious as the budget crisis has become, it is only a part of the troubles that face this administration.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who rules the House chamber, has, in effect, disinvited Trump from delivering his State of the Union address scheduled for Jan. 29.
This week, Trump sent a note that he was planning to be there on that date, and on Tuesday, Bobby Peede, White House director of presidential advance work, requested a “walk-through” in preparation for the president’s address to the nation.
Pelosi dismissed Peede’s note, and quickly rejected the president’s insistence that his speech would occur next week.
The House “will not consider a concurrent resolution authorizing the President’s State of the Union address in the House chamber until government has opened,” she wrote to the White House.
Her note was a reminder to Trump of the government’s “separation of powers” rule set forth in the United States Constitution. The president has no powers to demand the use of the House chamber for his annual SOTU address, something that teenage children learn in high school.
“All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States,” it says in Article I.
It’s understandable why Trump didn’t know this when he demanded to use the House chamber for his address. He doesn’t read, least of all the nation’s governing document.
But surely there must have been someone in the White House -- an adviser, or maybe an intern -- who could have told him he has no powers to bully leaders of Congress, especially the speaker of the House, into using the people’s chamber to deliver his address whenever his likes.
He may have the power to shut down the government by refusing to sign a budget appropriations bill that doesn’t give him what he wants, or by vetoing one that he doesn’t support.
But at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, where the nation’s Capitol sits high on a hill, looking down on the president, the people rule.
And the president doesn’t get to speak in the House chamber without the consent of the woman who runs it.
Donald Lambro has been covering Washington politics for more than 50 years as a reporter, editor and commentator.