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Trump backs down, says will give State of Union speech after shutdown ends

US President Donald Trump. Photograph:( Reuters )

AFP Washington, USA Jan 24, 2019, 12.21 PM (IST)

US President Donald Trump announced late Wednesday he would give the State of the Union address when the ongoing government shutdown ends, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi effectively blocked him from delivering the annual speech in Congress.

"As the Shutdown was going on, Nancy Pelosi asked me to give the State of the Union Address. I agreed," the president tweeted.

"She then changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date. This is her prerogative - I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over."

Trump also said he was not looking for an alternative venue because none "can compete with the history, tradition and importance of the House Chamber," adding he looked forward to giving a "great" address "in the near future."

Traditionally, the president's annual speech, which was previously scheduled for next Tuesday, is delivered before a joint session of Congress in the ornate chamber of the House of Representatives.

In an effort to force the hand of Pelosi, who had already urged Trump to reschedule due to shutdown-related security shortcomings, the president had written to her saying 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!"

But Pelosi, who has become the face of Democratic opposition to Trump in Congress, pushed back, informing the president that the House would not authorize the speech in the chamber.

The rejection sent Washington's establishment into uncharted territory, and all but forced Trump to retreat over his address.

The standoff came on the eve of a pair of US Senate votes that appeared unlikely to end the longest-ever shutdown -- and as furloughed federal workers vented their fury on Capitol Hill on the shutdown's 33rd day.

Story highlights

The speech, which had been scheduled for Tuesday, is given in the US House of Representatives at the invitation of the House Speaker. Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker, however insisted there would be no invite for Trump until he had ended his shutdown.