Nancy Pelosi, the new Speaker of the US House of Representatives, can be said to have won the first round. Donald Trump is apparently inching towards a compromise in the wake of Ms Pelosi’s threat to block the US President from delivering the State of the Union address in the House chamber until the government reopens.
The closure has exceeded a month, and is indeed the longest-ever in the history of the United States of America. In response to the Speaker’s warning on Wednesday, President Trump has let it be known that he will wait till the government shutdown is over not the least “because there is no venue that can compete with the history, tradition and importance of the House chamber”. With the White House playing on the backfoot, the legislature appears distinctly to have scored a victory over the executive in the fountain-head of democracy.
A showdown at this juncture over making the presentation at the traditional venue would arguably have undermined the President’s standing further still. Mr Trump has effectively ended speculation that he could make the address from any of the alternate venues, such as the Oval Office, the Senate chamber, or the Mexican border. He has binned the pregnant symbolism of the third option because federal funding for the proposed border wall is at the core of the current closure of America. The standoff intensified after Ms Pelosi told the President of her decision ~ “I am writing to inform you that the House of Representatives will not consider a concurrent resolution authorizing the President’s State of the Union address in the House chamber until the government has opened. I look forward to welcoming you to the House on a mutually agreeable date for this address when government has been opened.”
It is not often that the likes of Donald Trump will readily chew over a second opinion on any issue. This time around, he has clearly acquiesced in the Speaker’s timely word of caution. Quite a change from the President’s initial response ~ “I am “not surprised” by Pelosi’s decision not to authorize the State of the Union address during the shutdown. It’s really a shame what’s happening with the Democrats. They’ve become radicalized.” The Democrats have scored a point.
A striking feature of the current shutdown is that the State of the Union address ~ scheduled on 29 January ~ has occasioned a standoff between the White House and Congress. Mr Trump and Ms Pelosi have been locked in an increasingly personal standoff over the President’s demand for $5.7 billion in funding for his border wall. The wall that has come up between the executive and the legislature can be no less deleterious for democracy. The uncertainty over the address is but a symptom of the distressingly dismal scenario.