Top White House officials are discussing whether the GOP-controlled Senate could invite President Trump to deliver the State of the Union address. This, in the wake of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s suggestion Wednesday that the address be postponed or relegated to being done in writing due to the partial government shutdown, now in its 27th day…
Senior officials are advising him that Pelosi’s suggestion is a sign of weakness — that Democrats fear he will use the stage to his advantage. It’s not known whether that is actually the case, but it is what senior officials are telling him.
Lots of questions here. Like this one: Does the Senate chamber have the capacity to accommodate both houses of Congress for the SOTU? Or could McConnell commandeer the House chamber to host Trump against Pelosi’s wishes?
More substantively, does the Senate majority leader have unilateral power to invite the president to speak or is that power subject to authorization by a resolution of the Senate? Roll Call reporter Niels Lesniewski says it’s the latter, which would mean Schumer could filibuster any attempt to invite Trump.
A little more specificity on this …
The cases in the 1960s when this happened involved unanimous consent that "the Chair be authorized to appoint a committee to escort the President of the United States into the Senate Chamber." https://t.co/81Y4hr3NnN
— Niels Lesniewski (@nielslesniewski) January 17, 2019
Another question. Assume McConnell figures out a way to extend the invite. Would Democrats show for Trump’s speech? That answer is easy: No, not most of them. But what about those freshmen Dems from purple districts? They might want to make a gesture of respect to POTUS just to keep their Republican supporters back home pacified. It’s a cinch that Pelosi would boycott, not wanting to be trapped on camera sitting in silence as Trump harangues her for an hour about the shutdown, but that in itself would strongly signal disrespect — and would corroborate Trump’s claim that Democrats, not him, are the truly intransigent party. Would purple-district Dems pay for it?
Plus, how could she boycott after claiming yesterday, completely disingenuously, that she was discouraging Trump from giving the speech due to concerns about security? If McConnell thinks it’s safe for him to attend and the Secret Service thinks it’s safe and Pelosi still doesn’t bother to show up, it’ll be transparent proof that she tried to block him from delivering the SOTU for petty political reasons.
But maybe she doesn’t care. She’s gone out of her way to show contempt for Trump at every stage of this. Maybe she’d see this as icing on the cake.
One more question, this one out of the box. What if Trump tweets today that he intends to deliver the SOTU in the House chamber and will be there on the 29th, whatever Pelosi may have to say about it? What does she do? No other president would publicly dare the Speaker of the House to bar him from the room to prevent him from speaking. (No other president would be disinvited in the first place.) But Trump does things the Trump way, for maximum drama. And nothing would be as dramatic as putting Pelosi on the spot in deciding whether to try to have the president physically blocked from giving an address.
I assume the Secret Service would lean heavily on Trump not to follow through on that threat, just because they don’t like situations where the president’s movements are uncertain. And I also assume that Pelosi would try to avoid that game of chicken by deciding that Trump is free to come if he likes — she hasn’t formally rescinded her invite, remember — but that she and most of her caucus will skip the event. Then we’ll be treated to the spectacle of Trump addressing the nation with an empty chair over his right shoulder, with Democrats no doubt engaged in some sort of counterprogramming elsewhere for the hour. They might have to let Ocasio-Cortez deliver the Intersectional State of the Union or something. That’s the only thing that could compete with Trump.