NDP Ain't Playing: Pelosi Schools Trump on House Rules
Donald Trump has never faced a challenger like Nancy Pelosi: a woman who not only has real power as the head of a co-equal branch of government but is willing to use it. Because of Trump taking the government hostage in order to get his wall, on January 16, Speaker Pelosi canceled Trump’s State of the Union speech to a joint session of Congress, previously scheduled for January 29. At that time, media outlets predominantly characterized Pelosi’s letter as a mere request, saying that she was “asking” Trump to postpone his speech after the Trump Shutdown ends.
As I said then, The. Speaker. Was. Not. “Asking.”
In a retaliatory response, Donald Trump not only canceled a military flight to Afghanistan for a Congressional delegation led by the Speaker, he also divulged sensitive details of their trip, making a commercial trip impossible, considering the security risks. Just when Trump the amateur began to believe he won that round, the seasoned veteran Pelosi thoroughly humiliated Trump by brilliantly throwing shade at his pettiness.
Trump is famously thin-skinned and cannot stand the thought of being humiliated, much less by a woman. So of course, there was a next shoe to drop. Pelosi had perfectly laid out the trap, and I dare venture a guess that she knew Trump would take the bait.
After the White House signaling for the past few days that Trump planned on defying the Speaker and delivering the State of the Union address in the House chamber anyway - including with a formal request to the House Sergeant-at-Arms to conduct a walk-through - Trump himself escalated things, writing to Pelosi today that he was coming on Tuesday. Trump must have figured that Pelosi was bluffing.
She was not.
Within hours, Pelosi dropped her response (and, I suspect, a few mics), saying, essentially, that this is her House and he was going to do what he’s told. A concurrent resolution is required to convene a joint session of Congress on the House floor, and the Speaker informed the petulant child in the White House that there would be no consideration of any such resolution so long as the government remains closed.
This is a huge - and really smart - power play by Nancy Pelosi. First, Pelosi is holding steadfast to the simple principle of opening the government first before any presidential address. It’s the right, and the popular, thing to do.
Second, Pelosi is asserting the power of Congress, the first branch of government, and more specifically, of the House, which has a monopoly on hosting joint sessions simply by the virtue of being a physically larger chamber. But she is not simply asserting the power of Congress. She is asserting the power of Congress as equal to that of the executive, and by extension, in this instance, the role of the Speaker as equal to that of the President. To a petulant tantrum-thrower who has never had to face any real challenge to his power, this is uncharted, gob-smacking, territory.
Third, and finally, Pelosi is using her power to take from Trump what may be more dear to him than even the "Big Beautiful Wall (TM)”: his ego boost in front of the entire Congress, a national audience and all the media spectacles that come with it. Make no mistake, this - optics and the blow to his ego - was the overriding reason the White House raised the stakes and pretended they could disobey the Speaker on matters of House rules and get away with it. The result: Pelosi embarrassed Trump some more and made good on her promise to not hold a State of the Union address on the House floor until after the government reopens.
Nancy D'alesandro Pelosi didn’t come to play.
Here is her full letter:
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