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President Trump said he would look for alternative venues for his State of the Union address on Tuesday, appearing to capitulate after Speaker Nancy Pelosi again told him she would not invite him to deliver it at the House until the government reopens.
The decision came after a tit-for-tat between Mr. Trump and Ms. Pelosi over the State of the Union address. Mr. Trump told Ms. Pelosi on Wednesday that he would deliver the speech in the Capitol next week as originally scheduled. Ms. Pelosi fired back that he was not welcome unless the government was fully open.
It had concluded, at least by late afternoon, with Mr. Trump declaring at the White House, “The State of the Union has been canceled by Nancy Pelosi because she doesn’t want to hear the truth.”
Ms. Pelosi had invited Mr. Trump to deliver the speech in a letter on Jan. 3. But on Jan. 16, she warned that there were security concerns about the president’s coming to Capitol Hill because of the partial government shutdown, which began about a month ago.
On Wednesday, Mr. Trump responded, sending Ms. Pelosi a letter in which he said that he had checked — and that there were no such concerns from the Secret Service.
“Therefore, I will be honoring your invitation, and fulfilling my Constitutional duty, to deliver important information to the people and Congress of the United States of America regarding the State of our Union,” the president wrote.
“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!” he wrote.
Within hours, Ms. Pelosi fired back with a letter of her own, telling the president she would not pass a resolution authorizing him to come until the government has reopened. “Again, I look forward to welcoming you to the House on a mutually agreeable date for this address when government has been opened,” she wrote.
Back at the White House, Mr. Trump appeared to have gotten the message, saying he would explore alternatives.
“She’s afraid of the super-left Democrats, the radical Democrats. What’s going on in that party is shocking,” he said. He called her refusal “a great blotch on the great country we all love.”
Mr. Trump’s announcement that he would come to the Capitol despite Ms. Pelosi’s concerns seemed meant to put the Democrat leadership on the spot. Republican leaders in Congress piled on. The House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy of California, released a video on Twitter of him signing the resolution formally inviting the president to the House.
“Retweet if you agree that the State of the Union should proceed as planned,” he wrote.
Before Ms. Pelosi’s response, Democrats had issued somewhat contradictory language on the president’s invitation. Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, appeared Tuesday on Fox News and was asked if he would be willing to host the president. He gave a one-word answer: “Sure.” That led to speculation that he disagreed with Ms. Pelosi.Ms. Pelosi told Mr. Trump that there would be no State of the Union until the government reopened.CreditErin Schaff for The New York Times
But on Wednesday, Mr. Hoyer spoke to reporters and said the United States Capitol Police would be fully prepared to provide security in the event that Mr. Trump delivered the address in the Capitol.
“Nancy and I are on the same page. She didn’t disinvite him,” Mr. Hoyer said of Ms. Pelosi. “What she said was she thought it would be appropriate to choose a different date. He has not done so.”
In a closed-door meeting with House Democrats on Wednesday morning, before Mr. Trump sent his letter, Ms. Pelosi made it clear that she still believed the speech should not occur, and advised lawmakers against arranging for their families to be at the Capitol for it.
“With government shut down and people not getting paid, why should we go through this?” she said, according to an aide in the room who described her comments on the condition of anonymity because they were private.
Ms. Pelosi said some Democrats had approached her asking if they should arrange for family members to be in Washington for the occasion.
“Why does your family want to come to this thing in the first place?” she said, drawing laughter, according to the aide. “I wouldn’t spend any money to come out here.”
Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, told reporters, that “unless the government is reopened, it’s highly unlikely that the State of the Union will take place on the floor of the House of Representatives.”