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The Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, knows she has power and knows how to wield it. She can read the national polls showing President Donald Trump’s approval plummeting, and support also diving for using the shutdown to get his wall. She isn’t giving an inch, at least in a way Trump finds meaningful.

Trump tried to bully his way into the State of the Union address, writing to Pelosi that he’d be prepared to deliver it next week. “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!” Actually, most of the country likely would prefer he give it in writing. We know the one who’d be disappointed — infuriated, even — would be Trump.

Pelosi holds the cards here. She promptly returned fire. Recounting her prior letter telling him the State of the Union should not be held during a shutdown, she wrote back to Trump: “I said we should work together to find a mutually agreeable date when government has reopened and I hope that we can still do that.”

Her letter continued, “I am writing to inform you that the House of Representatives will not consider a concurrent resolution authorising the President’s State of the Union address in the House Chamber until government has opened.”

At an encounter with the media a few days ago, Pelosi repeated in simple, deliberate terms that even Trump should be able to grasp. The Democrats will not talk until the shutdown ends. If they allow him to take hostages this time, he’ll do it over and over again, as she told reporters: “We cannot have the president, every time he has an objection, to say I’ll shut down the government until you come to my way of thinking ... If we hold the employees hostage now, they’re hostage forever.”

State of negotiations

The State of the Union Address is an annual message delivered by the President of the United States to a joint session of the United States Congress. George Washington delivered the first regular annual message before a joint session of Congress on January 8, 1790, in New York City, then the provisional US capital.

In 2019 the issue over Trump’s State of the Union address is symbolic of the overall state of the negotiations. Trump blusters, Pelosi calls his bluff. Trump insists his wall is popular, Pelosi knows it hasn’t got 60 votes in the Senate.

Meanwhile, Democrats are showing Trump a narrow escape route. As reported by the Washington Post: “House Democrats are prepared to support increased spending on border security, but not a wall, if President Trump agrees to reopen the government first.”

The proposal, which Democrats are drafting into a formal letter to Trump, will include border security improvements such as retrofitting ports of entry, new sensors and drones, more immigration judges and border patrol agents, and additional technology, among other measures. This presumably would be more than the $1.3 billion (Dh4.78 billion) previously offered. It’s a fig leaf, to be sure, but Trump has staked his reputation on the wall and only the wall.

Americans will soon learn if the Republicans in the Senate — who observe protests in their offices — have had enough. If so, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will put Trump’s measure on the floor, the House measure to reopen the government and then, perhaps, the newest proposal or some variation. As has been reiterated multiple times, McConnell needs to do his job without a note from the principal ... er, president. Otherwise, both the president and the GOP’s Senate majority go down the tubes.

— Washington Post

Jennifer Rubin is an acclaimed American journalist and columnist.