Locked out of House by Pelosi, Trump Vows State of Union Alternative

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would hold an alternative event to the State of the Union address after Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi barred him from speaking in the House of Representatives until the partial government shutdown ends.

The clash between two of Washington’s most powerful leaders escalated the standoff that has partly closed the government for 33 days and that threatens the U.S. economy and the livelihoods of about 800,000 federal workers.

On Speaker Pelosi’s move to lock him out of the House, Trump said at a White House meeting on border security, “It’s a disgrace.”

Pelosi told the president that for now she would not consider a measure authorizing the speech, an annual, televised rite in American politics traditionally delivered in the House chamber.

“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 to Trump in a letter.

Earlier in the day, Trump essentially dared her to disinvite him from making the speech, which was set for next Tuesday.

Several House Democrats said Pelosi did the right thing.

“He’s an uninvited guest. This chamber doesn’t belong to him. We have a separation of powers here,” said Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland. “We make the laws here, and his job is to make sure the laws are faithfully executed. He hasn’t done that, and he’s not invited.”

The State of the Union speech, used by presidents to announce their policy goals for the year, has become a hostage to the showdown between Trump and congressional Democrats over his demand for funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

About a quarter of the government has been shut down since Dec. 22 when some U.S. agencies’ funding expired for reasons unrelated to border security or immigration. Trump at first expressed support for legislation to restore the agencies’ funding. Then he demanded that any shutdown-ending measure must contain $5.7 billion for the border wall, funding that Democrats oppose.

By Susan Heavey for REUTERS
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