GOP dismisses suggestion that State of Union be postponed
WASHINGTON — A grand Washington ritual became a potential casualty of the partial government shutdown as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked President Donald Trump to postpone his Jan. 29 State of the Union speech. She cited concerns about whether the hobbled government can provide adequate security, but Republicans cast her move as a ploy to deny Trump the stage.
In a letter to Trump, Pelosi said that with both the Secret Service and the Homeland Security Department entangled in the shutdown, the president should speak to Congress another time or he should deliver the address in writing.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen denied anyone's safety is compromised, saying Wednesday that both agencies "are fully prepared to support and secure the State of the Union."
Trump did not immediately respond to the request, and the White House, thrown off guard by the move, didn't immediately offer any official response. But GOP allies accused Pelosi of playing politics, with Republican Rep. Steve Scalise tweeting that Democrats are "only interested in obstructing
"I am running out of ideas."
Trump met a bipartisan group of lawmakers Wednesday that included seven Democrats. Two people who attended the White House meeting agreed it was "productive," but could not say to what extent Trump was listening or moved by the conversation.
The people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the event candidly, said it seemed at some points as if people were talking past each other. Lawmakers talked about the shutdown's effect on their constituents and advocated for "border security." Trump and others on-and-off used the term "wall." It was not clear if progress had been made, by those accounts.
Meanwhile a group of Republican senators headed to the White House later Wednesday.
Many Republicans were unwilling to sign on to a letter led by Graham and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., to reopen the government for three weeks while talks continue.
"Does that help the president or does that hurt the president?" asked Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., among those going to the White House.
He has not signed the letter.
"If the president saw it as a way to be conciliatory, if he thought it would help, then perhaps it's a good idea," he said. "If it's just seen as a weakening of his position, then he probably wouldn't do it."
While Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she has signed, others said GOP support was lacking.
"They're a little short on the R side," said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., another leader of the effort.
The House and Senate announced they are canceling next week's planned recess if the shutdown continues, which seemed likely. Some Republicans expressed concerns over the impact of the shutdown and who was getting blamed.
Said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc.:"Right now, are you seeing any pressure on Democrats? I think Republicans are getting the lion's share of the pressure."
He added: "The president accepted the blame so people are happy to give it to him."
Associated Press writers Chris Rugaber, Darlene Superville, Matthew Daly, Jonathan Lemire, Alan Fram, Colleen Long, Andrew Taylor, Laurie Kellman, Elana Schor and Ken Sweet contributed to this report.
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