In response to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) recommendation that President Donald Trump postpone his State of the Union speech until the government reopens, due to concerns about security, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) offered an alternate proposal: ignore the security concerns entirely and just hold the event in the Senate chamber.
Paul reasoned that, since Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell (KY) is in charge of the much smaller chamber, he can simply move forward without Pelosi’s approval.
With the Department of Homeland Security and the Secret Service both functioning at a significantly reduced capacity due to the funding lapse, Pelosi proposed that if Trump does not agree to end the partial government shutdown this week, the president could delay the speech, send it in writing, or deliver it from the Oval Office.
Today, I wrote to @realDonaldTrump recommending that we delay the State of the Union until after government re-opens, as the @SecretService, the lead federal agency for #SOTU security, faces its 26th day without funding. https://t.co/K2oL8WGvqo pic.twitter.com/g3fIlxDbbK
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) January 16, 2019
There is no constitutional requirement that the president give an in-person State of the Union address. While Presidents George Washington and John Adams did so, every president from Thomas Jefferson until Woodrow Wilson simply sent their updates to Congress in writing. While subsequent congresses have typically invited presidents to come in person, those invitations have not come during government shutdowns.
The addresses, designated as National Security Special Events requiring “the full resources of the Federal Government,” require massive security to protect all three branches of government, making them quite costly.
Appearing on Fox & Friends on Thursday morning, Paul characterized Pelosi’s recommendation as a “real affront to the American people.”
“What I would suggest is, Senator McConnell is in charge of the Senate — let’s host it in the Senate. First time in history that the House would deny a president the forum of speaking. If she is going to do that, let’s hold it in the Senate,” he said.
The senator reiterated this argument in a tweet on Thursday morning.
Senator McConnell is in charge of the Senate. If Mrs. Pelosi refuses to allow the president to deliver the State of the Union in the House, I propose we move it to the Senate and make it happen!
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) January 17, 2019
The Senate chamber is 3,887 square feet smaller than the House chamber, according to the Architect of the Capitol, leaving little room for such a large event.
But, more importantly, simply moving the event to a different venue would do nothing to address the problems cited by Pelosi: The government remains mired in the longest shutdown in U.S. history, and there is no appropriated money to pay for security for such an event.