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Pelosi rejects Trump's plan to deliver State of the Union during government shutdown


Donald Trump wants to give the State of the Union address as scheduled next Tuesday, but Nancy Pelosi says it can't go ahead while the partial shutdown is ongoing.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday rejected President Donald Trump's insistence that he deliver his State of the Union speech next week in Congress, setting up an unsettling clash among Washington's power elite.

The spat about where the annual political set-piece will be staged is a sideshow to the struggle between the White House and Democrats in Congress over partial government shutdown now in its 33rd day.

Traditionally the speech, which is scheduled for next Tuesday, is given by the president in the ornate chamber of the House of Representatives, to a joint session of the Senate and House.

Trump wrote to Pelosi that it would be "so very sad for our Country if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, on schedule, and very importantly, on location!"

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly clashed with Donald Trump.

Pelosi, who has become the face of Democratic opposition to Trump in Congress, has said the president should consider giving the speech elsewhere because the shutdown means that security would be problematic. She also suggested that he deliver the speech to Congress in written form.

Shortly after Trump's letter, Pelosi wrote back, informing the president that the House would not authorize the speech in the chamber "until government has opened."

"Again, I look forward to welcoming you to the House on a mutually agreeable date for this address when government has been opened," Pelosi said. 

Although Pelosi cited practical difficulties caused by the shutdown, the White House sees her move as part of a game of one-upmanship.

Trump's letter Wednesday declared that "there are no security concerns."

"I look forward to seeing you," he wrote to Pelosi.

But the speaker stood firm, rejecting Trump's demand.

The shutdown, in which some 800,000 federal employees have been left without pay for a month, was triggered by Trump's refusal to sign funding bills in December. 

This was in retaliation for the Democrats' refusal to approve funds for extending walls along the US-Mexico border.

Trump says he will not reopen government before his wall funding comes through, leaving thousands of people, including FBI agents and airport security workers, waiting for paychecks. 

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