No? How about a dais? A riser? CNN’s Manu Raju asked the question that John Sexton raised yesterday. Isn’t her “suggestion” to postpone or cancel the State of the Union address just another form of deplatforming by the Left to prevent speech they don’t like? Not at all, Pelosi replied. She just doesn’t think Donald Trump should speak until federal workers get paid:
Just asked Pelosi if she's simply trying to deny Trump a platform after DHS said it could secure SOTU, and she said: "I'm not denying him a platform at all…Let's pay the employees. Maybe he thinks it's OK not to pay people who do work. I don't, and my caucus doesn't either." pic.twitter.com/RODDSMihbK
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 17, 2019
It’s “deplatforming” in a literal and immediate sense, although it’s questionable in the normal political sense in which the term is generally used. Pelosi is literally denying Trump a platform for the specific appearance set for January 29th. Usually, though, “deplatforming” suggests something a little more permanent, such as the result of the pitchfork-and-torch brigade’s efforts to get Kevin Williamson fired at The Atlantic for work he’d done years earlier. It’s also a bit more applicable on college campuses that force cancellations of conservative speakers, which tends to be a chronic condition rather than a one-off.
At least Pelosi has changed her tune on motive. Yesterday she claimed that she wanted the SOTU event postponed or canceled because of security concerns, but the Department of Homeland Security said they were fully capable of securing the event, shutdown or no. Today it’s all about getting federal employees paid, which transforms this from a security issue to a hardball and unprecedented negotiating tactic.
And that’s a change that matters. No previous president has had to overcome a policy difference in order to address a joint session of Congress, even in circumstances where the Speaker is from the opposing party. Joint sessions for presidential addresses (SOTUs and others) are an institutional tradition, or at least they were. If Pelosi now wants to treat this as a political spoil to be negotiated, then she should get used to questions about deplatforming on the basis of ideological conflict.
By the way, the Trump administration is working hard on expanding the universe of federal employees working without pay in the shutdown:
“It’s time for the Democrats to negotiate,” Russell T. Vought, the acting director of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget who helped lead the effort to recall I.R.S. employees, recently said. “In the meantime, we will make this shutdown as painless as possible, consistent with the law.”
That last phrase — consistent with the law — has proved crucial for a team of 12 lawyers working under Mr. Vought. In past shutdowns, only workers deemed “essential” to protecting life and property — a category that would include people like Secret Service agents — were allowed to work.
But the budget office is now focused on Justice Department guidance, issued by previous administrations, that would broaden who is considered essential, using lesser known exceptions to call back thousands of employees to perform duties like preparing taxes or opening mail.
A senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said lawyers were relying on guidance issued during past shutdowns, including a Clinton-era contingency plan that allows exceptions for workers whose duties do not rely on yearly appropriations.
At the basis of this, of course, is the utter refusal by both sides to come off even an iota from their original bargaining positions. Trump still wants his $5 billion, and Pelosi still doesn’t want a wall. She emphasized that in the same presser. She’s not for a wall, and so she’s also not for paying federal employees as long as Trump insists on getting funding for one. And the beat goes on.
Reporter: Aren’t you just trying to deny the president a platform to deliver his [SOTU] address?
Pelosi: No… I’m saying let’s get a date when government is open. Let’s pay the employees. Maybe he thinks it’s OK not to pay people who do work. I don’t. https://t.co/T5BIT5nYDL pic.twitter.com/N3QfTvZ4Oh
— POLITICO (@politico) January 17, 2019