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Pelosi asks Trump to postpone State of the Union

Pelosi wants to delay State of the Union
Pelosi wants to delay State of the Union 07:30

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is formally asking President Trump to delay his State of the Union address scheduled for Jan. 29, or to submit his thoughts in writing instead.

In a letter sent Wednesday morning to the White House, Pelosi cited potential security concerns given that federal agencies are stretched thin, given their furloughed or unpaid workforce.

"Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government reopens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has reopened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to the Congress on January 29th," Pelosi wrote. 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told CNN hours later: "The State of the Union is off" — but had to walk back those definitive comments later. 

"Mr. Hoyer had not read Speaker Pelosi's letter and mischaracterized it," Hoyer spokeswoman Mariel Saez said in a statement. 

The State of the Union, since the start of the modern fiscal budgeting year in 1977, "has never been delivered during a government shutdown," Pelosi noted. Pelosi invited Mr. Trump to give the address earlier this month. 

According to the Constitution, Mr. Trump could simply submit his thoughts on the state of the country in writing if he so chooses. George Washington delivered an in-person address to Congress when he served as president, but in-person appearances on the matter didn't become the norm until former president Woodrow Wilson began doing so in 1913.

Pelosi also told reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday that her request to reschedule is a "housekeeping" matter, and Mr. Trump could deliver the address from the Oval Office. 

It is yet unclear what Mr. Trump will do with Pelosi's request. CBS News has asked the White House about the letter. 

Despite Pelosi's security concerns, A DHS official told CBS News that DHS and the Secret Service, which is a part of DHS, are fully prepared to staff the address. Nielsen tweeted Wednesday afternoon that DHS is fully prepared to handle the State of the Union address. 

But a spokesman for Pelosi disagreed.

"The Office of the Speaker has been contacted by a furloughed DHS employee who expressed serious concerns that the department has insufficient staffing levels to sufficiently manage the security needs for the upcoming State of the Union address due to furloughs of critical staff," the spokesman said.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Democratic chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said it would be unfair for Mr. Trump to require the Secret Service to devote its resources to the State of the Union address. 

"The Secret Service is the lead federal agency in charge of facilitating security for the yearly State of the Union address, but because of the Trump shutdown, the agency is currently not fully operational," Thompson said. "It would be completely inappropriate for President Trump to further deplete the agency's resources and manpower for the sole purpose of having an hour of uninterrupted primetime television coverage."

In order to officially schedule the State of the Union address, the House must first pass a resolution — but Pelosi controls the floor, meaning she could hold up the speech indefinitely. 

Pelosi's surprise decision to essentially dangle revoking the invite comes on the 25th day of what is now the longest federal government shutdown in American history. Democrats and Republicans remain at odds over how to break the logjam. 

Mr. Trump is meeting with Democratic House members of the bipartisan "problem solvers" caucus that is widely considered weak and ineffective on Capitol Hill. On Tuesday, a bloc of first-term House Democrats declined an invitation to meet with the president about a potential solution.

The White House and Democrats appear to be at an impasse, as security lines grow longer at U.S. airports, and hundreds of thousands of federal employees, including members of the Coast Guard, go without pay. 

CBS News' Bo Erickson and Paula Reid contributed to this report.

This report has been updated to reflect that Steny Hoyer's office walked back his comment that the "State of the Union is off." 

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