Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of California asked President Donald Trump to reschedule his State of the Union (SOTU) address due to the current government shutdown. One of the concerns the Democratic Speaker cited was security.
Latching on to just one issue, Trump appointee Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen of the Department of Homeland Security stated there was no merit to Pelosi’s request because:
“The Department of Homeland Security and the US Secret Service are fully prepared to support and secure the State of the Union. We thank the Service for their mission focus and dedication and for all they do each day to secure our homeland.”
The Department of Homeland Security and the US Secret Service are fully prepared to support and secure the State of the Union. We thank the Service for their mission focus and dedication and for all they do each day to secure our homeland.
— Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen (@SecNielsen) January 16, 2019
However Secretary Nielsen forgot one important issue. But Speaker Pelosi reminded her.
While speaking to reporters, Pelosi stated:
“I’m saying let’s get a date when government is open. Let’s pay the employees. “
She went on:
“It isn’t a question of ‘are they professional enough?’ Why’d we even take it there? The question is they should be paid, and as secretary of any agency, that person should be advocating for her employees to be paid instead of saying it’s okay for them to work without pay.”
Reporter: Aren’t you just trying to deny the president a platform to deliver his [SOTU] address?
Pelosi: No… I’m saying let’s get a date when government is open. Let’s pay the employees. Maybe he thinks it’s OK not to pay people who do work. I don’t. https://t.co/T5BIT5nYDL pic.twitter.com/N3QfTvZ4Oh
— POLITICO (@politico) January 17, 2019
Because a Republican-controlled Congress and White House failed to approve the funding appropriations for nine departments in the 14 months they could have done it without Democrat’s cooperation, Nielsen’s Secret Service agents are not getting paid. The SOTU requires extra staffing and longer hours from multiple law enforcement agencies.
The defense of Homeland Security to Pelosi’s comment that the government should be open to ensure safety of government members in attendance is that HS can ensure their safety. But those providing that safety will not be getting paid & will not have been paid for over a month.
— Wade Tharp (@t_thetoad) January 17, 2019
But most of those agencies are not being paid if they are working or are currently furloughed without pay. Here are the nine agencies former Republican Speaker Paul Ryan, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Trump White House failed to pass fiscal year 2019 budgets for from October 1, 2017 to January 3, 2019, when Democrats took over control of the House:
- Department of the Treasury
- Department of Agriculture
- Department of Homeland Security
- Department of the Interior which includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs
- Department of State
- Department of Housing and Urban Development
- Department of Transportation
- Department of Commerce
- Department of Justice
In addition to the Secret Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents for which Nielsen failed to secure fiscal year 2019 budget appropriation from a GOP-controlled Congress, the National Parks Service rangers and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents who assist when added security is needed at events in Washington DC are also not being paid.
And Speaker Pelosi does not think that is a good thing. She suggested Trump make the SOTU “from the Oval Office” or submit his speech in writing. While the invitation to present before Congress is a tradition, it is not a requirement nor has it always been a tradition.
And Pelosi is not alone in her opinion that Nielsen missed the bigger picture.