Speaker Pelosi shuts door on Trump’s ceremonial address to Congress

Arul Louis(IANS)-


Shut out of the House of Representatives by Speaker Nancy Pelosi from delivering his State of the Union address with pomp and show, US President Donald Trump is left looking for another venue as the government shutdown entered its 34th day on Thursday.

As their feud heightened, Trump wrote to her on Wednesday demanding to speak from the House chamber to a joint session of Congress on January 29, but Pelosi replied that the House will not consider a resolution to invite him unless he ended the government shutdown.

Earlier in retaliation, Trump had banned Pelosi from using military planes to visit US troops in Afghanistan.

Trump cannot deliver his annual address from the House chamber without an invitation or he would be sparking a constitutional crisis.

A petulant Trump told reporters: “The State of the Union speech has been canceled by Nancy Pelosi because she doesn’t want to hear the truth.”

He could speak from another place in the Congress building or even from the Senate, which seems unlikely – even though the Republicans have the votes to invite him – as it would upend tradition.

The State of the Union address is the equivalent of the Indian President’s address to the joint session of Parliament at the start of the session and has a ceremonial air that Trump is fond of.

Trump has demanded that the budget include $5.7 billion for building a wall or a barrier along the Mexican border to deter illegal immigration and smuggling, but the Democrats, who control the House and crucial votes in the Republican-majority Senate, have refused to vote for it.

Without a budget as both sides hold firm, there is no money to run all but the most essential government services or pay the workers, both those still working and those temporarily laid off.

The effects of the shutdown are beginning to show.

About 800,000 employees will be missing their second fortnightly paycheck on Friday and are facing financial hardships, some to the extent of being broke and relying on charity for food handouts.

Holding up empty paper plates signifying that they are unable to feed their families, thousands of government employees held a protest outside the Senate offices.

Admiral Karl Schultz, the commandant of the Coast Guard, took the bold step of tweeting a video message that it was “unacceptable” for his personnel to rely on charity without their paychecks.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Agents Association issued a report detailing how the shutdown is undermining the nation’s security as the agency is running out of funds for its operations.

“The fear is our enemies know they can run freely,” an officer was quoted in the report.

Meanwhile, the Senate is expected to fire two blanks in the war of the budgets later Thursday.

Votes are scheduled on a Republican resolution approving the border wall funding and the competing Democratic resolution demanding a temporary reopening of the government till February 8 so they can negotiate a more permanent solution.

Neither resolution is likely to have enough votes to pass.

Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has, meanwhile, emerged as a key figure meeting and contacting members of the Congress to find a solution.

It was reported by several news outlets that one of the concessions that Trump may offer is giving permanent residency to those who came in illegally as children to the US and are referred to as Dreamers, instead of a three-year reprieve he had offered.

Civil rights groups estimate that Indians covered by Trump’s offer vary between 5,000 and 7,500.

Democrats had offered $1.7 billion towards enhancing border security under the condition that it cannot be used for the wall.

Now they were reported to be considering raising that amount to almost what he demanded, again on the condition that it cannot be used for a border barrier and if only he re-opened the government.

Trump has been portraying Pelosi as a hostage of the radical left in the party, some of whom like Indian-American Representative Pramila Jayapal want to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency that acts against smugglers and illegal immigrants within the US.

“They’ve become radicalized,” he said Wednesday.

The moderates on both sides are becoming uneasy with the prolonged shutdown.

Some Democrats who won the November midterm elections from traditionally Republican constituencies that backed Trump fear being cast as radicals, while Republican moderates are worried about the public disapproval rate for Trump’s handling of the crisis rising in many opinion polls.

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