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By Jonathan Allen and Rebecca Shabad
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump should either delay his State of the Union address or submit it in writing, Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote Wednesday in a letter citing the security burdens that the annual address to a joint session of Congress would place on a partially shuttered federal government.
“Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government re-opens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has re-opened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to the Congress on January 29th,” Pelosi wrote in the letter to Trump.
The White House did not immediately reply to NBC’s requests for comment.
Parts of the federal government, including some operations of the Homeland Security Department, have been closed down since Dec. 22, when the spending authority for several federal agencies lapsed amid an an impasse between Trump and Congress over his request for billions of dollars in funding for a border wall.
A State of the Union address has not been rescheduled since President Ronald Reagan chose to move his planned Jan. 28, 1986, speech when the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up that morning. Reagan instead addressed the nation from the Oval Office that night and postponed the State of the Union.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., asked if the speaker was “disinviting” Trump, told NBC Wednesday morning that was the case, adding that the House is sending Trump a message that normal business won’t be conducted while large parts of the government remain closed. His office later said he had not read the full letter at the time he said it was disinviting Trump rather than asking him to reschedule, and that he had mischaracterized its contents.
Pelosi’s letter was sent one day after a group of moderate Democrats boycotted Trump’s invitation to the White House for a lunch to discuss the border-wall fight at the heart of the shutdown. On Wednesday, seven Democratic members of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus — Reps. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Thomas Suozzi, Anthony Brindisi and Max Rose of New York, Vicente Gonzalez of Texas, Dean Phillips of Minnesota, and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia — said they planned to meet with Trump at the White House.
“There is strong agreement across the aisle and around the country: We must reopen the government. Our security, safety, and economy have been compromised, and millions of families are suffering,” they said in a statement. “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. We accepted the White House’s invitation to meet today to convey that message.”
Pelosi herself told reporters she was not disinviting Trump. “No, no, no. It’s on the strength of the statement of the Secretary of Homeland Security about all of the resources that are needed to prepare for a State of the Union Address, which she calls an ‘event of special security,'” the speaker said. “And so these people are not working and we’ve never really had a State of Union when government has been in a shutdown since the Budget Act in the [1970s].”
Meanwhile, a letter is circulating among a bipartisan group of senators that they plan to send to Trump calling on him to reopen the government.
“We respectfully request that you join us in supporting a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) of three weeks to give Congress time to develop and vote on a bipartisan agreement that addresses your request. We commit to working to advance legislation that can pass the Senate with substantial bipartisan support,” said the draft letter obtained by NBC News.