Claiming security concerns, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has asked President Donald Trump to postpone his Jan. 29 State of the Union speech due to the shutdown of the government. There is no question that security can be guaranteed, as reaffirmed by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen who said that federal law enforcement is “fully prepared to support and secure the State of the Union.” The general view however is that the security risk is a thin, if not transparent, cover for a political muscle play. In reality, Congress controls the invitation and a joint meeting of Congress requires an invitation from both houses.
In her letter, Pelosi wrote “Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government re-opens this week, I suggest 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 29.”
There is in fact no requirement that the SOTU be given in person, let alone in Congress. Indeed, this communication was not even called the State of the Union until the 1930s. Article II, Section 3 states:
“He shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”
The January SOTU address has been a tradition not a textual requirement of Article I or Article II. George Washington however gave the first SOTU on January 8, 1790. Thomas Jefferson did not like the practice.
Trump could give the SOTU in writing in or in another location. However, the threat to close the doors of the House floor to the President creates a disturbing precedent, particularly because it does not appear that there is a security barrier to holding the SOTU. This seems more like a bargaining chip than a security imperative.
What do you think?