The State of the Union postponed; speaker says first end the government shutdown

Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives About this object In this 1950 postcard image, Congress gathered to hear President Harry Truman's State of the Union. (House archives)

Mark Trahant

Pew Research reports 58 percent of those surveyed continue to oppose substantially expanding the border wall

How many children are afraid because they know their parents are worried? Or broke. Even hungry.

“My granddaughter came home from school and said she was hungry,” writes Darla Morgan, Shoshone-Bannock from Fort Hall, Idaho. “I said didn't you eat at school? She said, ‘Yes,’ but the other kids wanted her food because they were more hungry than her. I was caught off guard because what she said next broke my heart. She said, ‘Grandma some kids have no food at home, they only get to eat at school.’”

Morgan said that story made her want to help more, to work with the tribe, other community members, and serve elders.

“We need a food bank, drop off spots and even donations for cleaning supplies, hygiene, baby items so our little babies will stay fed,” she wrote. “Even wild game would help, maybe a local farmer has extra spuds they can help us get thru this difficult time. If our community can come together, we will be ok.”

The key word, perhaps, is community. And that remains a particular challenge in Washington, D.C., where folks are deeply divided by ideas about what kind of country this should be. So where are we at in terms of resolving the longest government shutdown in history?

On Wednesday Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi told the president that it would be better for him to not give the annual State of the Union as long as the shutdown continues. That speech had been set for Jan. 29. “Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government re-opens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has re-opened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing … " Pelosi wrote in a letter to Trump.

Republicans were not happy. “It’s not a security issue, it’s politics and she knows it,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California.

A White House official told CNN that the president still plans to deliver the speech. But from where? Pelosi suggested the White House. But she is the host if the State of the Union is to come from Congress and that she’s not having. She has a leverage point and is willing to use it. (The state of the union is not a requirement. The Constitution only requires a report from the chief executive from time to time. But it's become an annual ritual on television.)

Also Wednesday a Capitol Hill group that calls itself the “problem solving caucus” met with the president. But that group started the meeting with the statement that the president should reopen the government and then negotiate on the border; that’s exactly what the president has said he will not do.

The one wild card in this dispute is the economy. The White House now says the shutdown is costing the country much more than it first projected. And that could get worse if unpaid federal workers -- such as TSA agents at airports -- suddenly quit working. Already the Coast Guard hit a milestone when it became the first U.S. military force to not pay its service members during a shutdown. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Karl L. Schultz thanked his team, writing, “stay the course, stand the watch, and serve with pride. You are not, and will not, be forgotten.” The border patrol, the FBI, BIA, and many other law enforcement agencies are in the same situation. At some point, the women and men who do the work will not be able to afford to do so. The only question is “when?”

And on Wednesday the White House asked some 50,000 federal workers to return to the job. Without pay, of course.

A new poll Wednesday reported that most Americans do not want a border wall. A Pew Research Center survey found that 58 percent continue to oppose substantially expanding the border wall, while 40 percent favor the proposal. “Overall opinion on the wall is little changed from last year, but these views have never been more sharply divided along partisan lines: Republican support for the wall is at record high, while Democratic support has reached a new low,” Pew said. “And both sides appear to be dug in: Nearly nine-in-ten (88 percent) opponents of expanding the border wall say it would not be acceptable to pass a bill that includes President Donald Trump’s request for wall funding, if that is the only way to end the shutdown. Among the smaller group of wall supporters, 72 percent say a bill to end the shutdown would be unacceptable if it does not include Trump’s funding request.”

One of those voices for a wall or nothing is Ann Coulter. “He is dead in the water if he doesn't build that wall. Dead, dead, dead. Dead,” Coulter told VICE News’ Michael Moynihan. “I mean at some point I think people are gonna realize this is just the Democrats. They’re obsessing on this wall because they want Trump to break a promise.”

Democrats continue to press for a resolution in the House. But the Senate continues to ignore that legislation until the president agrees. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said he would not consider any legislation until it’s a bill the president will sign into law. He rejected the idea of a veto override. "Let's not waste the time," he has said.

Yet McConnell undermined his own it-is-a-waste-of-time argument by calling up legislation Wednesday that would have protected sanctions against Russia. Senators voted 57-42 to end debate on the bill and 11 Republicans voted with the Democrats. So the bill failed to pass because it did not have 60 votes, a win for President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

At least one community is happy with the Senate.

Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter - @TrahantReports


Indian Country Today interactive spreadsheets:

Impact of shutdown on tribal communities

Impact on individuals, nonprofits

Previous stories:

Congressional hearing looks at the impact of shutdown on Indian Country

President walks away from a Republican with a plan to reopen government

Waiting for a thaw in Washington

Out of touch? White House says unpaid workers are 'better off'

Tribal leaders say government closure puts citizens in jeopardy

Government Shutdown: Tribes suffer job losses, bad roads, no healthcare access

Comments (1)
No. 1-1

What Speaker Nancy Pelosi says, "Crisis" is not always the case.....the question remains - if this were a "crisis" of such magnitude, why did she allow 38 Democrats (hispanic) to take the Puerto Rico trip - last week - to party, suntan, bathe, and entertain themselves all week long? Just because there was "no crisis" last week, doesn't support the notion of a "crisis" this week! A "crisis" NOW for Pelosi (yes) considering her callout for how this participatory USG partial Shutdown will now make her party LOOK BAD and as likely culprits now. Otherwise, Mark Trahant would not have given his summation of "everything" wrong about it but putting 100 percent on POTUS Trump.......Democrats are beginning to Nancy Pelosi has given the signs @@~ !