WASHINGTON – The White House is moving forward with plans for President Donald Trump to deliver his State of the Union speech next week in front of a joint session of Congress — despite a letter from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi requesting he delay it.
The White House sent an e-mail to the House sergeant-at-arms asking to schedule a walk-through in anticipation of a Jan. 29 address, according to a White House official who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity.
It's the latest move in a game of political brinkmanship between Trump and the House speaker.
Last week, Pelosi sent a letter to Trump suggesting that he either deliver the speech in writing or postpone it until after the partial government shutdown is resolved, citing security concerns. But the White House maintains Pelosi never formally rescinded her invitation, and is, in essence, calling her bluff.
The president cannot speak in front of a joint session of Congress without both chambers' explicit permission. A resolution agreed to by both chambers specifies the date and time of a joint session of the House and the Senate for receiving an address from the president.
At the same time, the White House is continuing to work on contingency plans to give Trump a backup in case the joint-session plans fall through. Officials have been considering a list of potential alternative venues, including a rally-style event, an Oval office address or a speech before the Senate chamber, according to two others familiar with the planning.
Several versions are also being drafted to suit the final venue.
The Constitution states only that the president "shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union," meaning the president can speak anywhere he chooses or give his update in writing. But a joint address in the House chamber, in front of lawmakers from both chambers and invited guests, provides the kind of grand backdrop that is hard to mimic.