Speaker Nancy Pelosi reacted with ambivalence Wednesday night after the Department of Homeland Security contradicted her claim that the upcoming State of the Union address should be cancelled due to security concerns resulting from the ongoing government shutdown.
“I don’t care what they said,” Pelosi told reporters when asked about the secret service’s claim that they cold secure the House chamber for President Trump’s upcoming State of the Union speech.
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen pushed back Wednesday afternoon after Pelosi sent a letter to Trump asking him to deliver the State of the Union in writing, or delay it until the record government shutdown is resolved and the requisite agencies are better able to secure the venue.
The Department of Homeland Security and the US Secret Service are fully prepared to support and secure the State of the Union. We thank the Service for their mission focus and dedication and for all they do each day to secure our homeland.
— Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen (@SecNielsen) January 16, 2019
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise similarly dismissed Pelosi’s security concerns on Wednesday.
“There are no security concerns that have been raised and that has nothing to do with that. Ironically, it seems like she’s only concerned about security when it’s a State of the Union that will expose what this fight is all about,” Scalise told reporters, referencing the government shutdown, then in its 25th day.
Senator John Kennedy (R., La.), a former Democrat, described Pelosi’s letter as “petty” and suggested the move would backfire politically.
“I don’t want to see it happen, but as a political matter I strongly encourage her to keep doing it,” Kennedy said. “I think she must think the American people are stupid. It’s petty and most people are going to see that it’s petty. And I strongly encourage her. Politically, it’s great for us,”
The president is constitutionally required to deliver an annual address on the state of the union but, up until 1913, it was delivered in writing. Pelosi has the authority to deny Trump an invitation to speak before Congress, but she has stressed that the content of her letter amounted only to a suggestion.