The State of the Union... what is there to say. Usually, it’s boring and sucks ass. This year though... could be wild!
The deal, in a nutshell, is this: On January 3, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited President Donald Trump to deliver the SOTU on January 29. But as the government shutdown stretched on, Pelosi told Trump on January 16 that he should either reschedule the SOTU speech for after the government shutdown has ended or submit it in writing, citing security concerns. This was effectively telling Trump he couldn’t give the speech as planned, as Pelosi is the one who traditionally calls for a joint session of Congress in the House, where it usually takes place.
On Wednesday, however Trump announced in a letter that he would
accept Pelosi’s original offer—the one she revoked—and deliver the SOTU in the House, the thing that she expressly said he could not do.
If you are like me then the question you are asking is: Can he...do that?
The answer is...maybe!
After Pelosi’s “uninvitation” announcement, McClatchy DC did a great explainer on what exactly each party involved is allowed to do.
For a traditional SOTU, there has to be a “joint session” for both chambers of Congress to come together.
Per McClatchy DC:
A joint session isn’t an ad hoc event. Both the House and Senate must formally agree to the session by adopting a “concurrent resolution.”
These resolutions are typically noncontroversial, often simply advanced by voice vote or what’s called unanimous consent, meaning no one objects so the measure is agreed to.
Pelosi, as the speaker, can control whether this resolution comes up for a vote at all in the House — or, if it does, she can urge her members to vote “no.” If there’s no joint session of Congress, Trump can’t come to the House floor to deliver his address.
So Pelosi and the Democrat-controlled House, if they want to, can block a joint session. But does that stop Trump? Not necessarily!
McClatchy reports that the president could basically strong-arm his way into the House of Representatives building and just start talking anyway, which would be an incredible breach of decorum and probably the most exciting thing to happen in a legislative chamber since that British guy stole a big club from Parliament.
There are restrictions on who can walk onto the House floor. The privilege is reserved for current and former members of Congress, along with congressional staffers with specific credentials allowing them access. The president is also permitted to enter the House chamber at any time.
Whether Trump could just get up on the dais and start delivering his State of the Union address is another question. Nothing could physically stop Trump from speaking in the House chamber, but there is a strict set of rules governing what is allowed to take place on the floor and what would be subject to condemnation.
In order for someone to deliver formal remarks in the House of Representatives, the chamber must be “in session,” which is at the discretion of the speaker.
According to McClatchy, there’s a bunch of procedural stuff like silencing the president, restricting CSPAN’s access to televise the thing, etc. that Pelosi can do, but we really have no idea what would happen if Trump just showed up on January 29 and started talking.
What this statement really does is put the ball firmly in Pelosi’s court to figure out what she’s going to do. Does she continue with the, “It’s a security risk during the shutdown” line? Will she issue a much more aggressive statement saying that it’s not security, it’s that the president is holding the government hostage for his stupid border wall and she doesn’t have to play ball with that shit? I don’t know! We will see—but there’s a decent chance now that it won’t be boring!
Update, 2:45 p.m. ET: Drama!!!! Pelosi fired back, explicitly saying that the House will not consider a resolution to call a joint session of Congress for the speech until the government reopens.
Hell yeah people we got a fight!