Trump to move forward with SOTU despite Democrats' pushback

Democrats have urged to delay his annual State of the Union address until the ongoing partial government shutdown ends.

    The shutdown began on December 22 after Trump, his fellow Republicans and Democrats could not come an agreement on the president's border wall [File: Leah Millis/Reuters]
    The shutdown began on December 22 after Trump, his fellow Republicans and Democrats could not come an agreement on the president's border wall [File: Leah Millis/Reuters]

    US President Donald Trump on Tuesday attempted to move ahead with planning for a State of the Union speech to the US Congress on January 29 despite pressure from Democrats to delay it due to the partial government shutdown.

    Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would put Trump's proposal for ending the shutdown - and getting funding for the president's promised border wall - up for a vote on Thursday.

    The plan was unlikely to pass in the Senate and had even less chance in the Democratic-dominated House of Representatives.

    Trump's cause was hurt on Tuesday by a US Supreme Court ruling regarding "Dreamers", people brought irregularly to the United States as children and who had been a key bargaining chip for the Republican president in his wall-funding battle.

    No clear way was evident to end the shutdown, which began on December 22, increasing the anxiety level of 800,000 federal workers who are furloughed or required to work without pay, with some struggling to make ends meet. 

    Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees, who are expected to work without pay, are refusing to show up in increasing numbers as the shutdown drags on.

    As "sickouts" increase, around 10 percent of TSA employees aren't showing up for work, claiming illness, across the country. 

    As the fight over the border wall and government funding raged, a sideshow over Trump's upcoming State of the Union speech also boiled over.

    A Trump administration official said the president still intended to deliver that speech on January 29, even though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top US Democrat, had recommended he delay it, citing concerns about security for the event with some personnel furloughed during a month-long shutdown.

    An administration official said the White House sought to have pre-speech preparations completed on Capitol Hill.

    The request seemed likely to set up another clash between Trump and Pelosi, days after Trump abruptly refused to let her use a US military plane to go on an overseas trip hours before she was to depart.

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    Aides to Pelosi did not respond to requests for comment on whether Trump's invitation to speak would stand.

    On Saturday, Trump proposed ending the government shutdown by fully funding the one-quarter of US agencies that are affected. In return, he would get $5.7bn towards building a southwestern border wall that the Democrats oppose. Trump also is offering to restore temporary protections for the "Dreamer" immigrants.

    In 2017, Trump moved to end the Dreamers' protections, triggering a court battle.

    Democrats promptly rejected Trump's plan as insufficient, saying they would not trade a temporary restoration of the immigrants' protections in return for a permanent border wall that they view as ineffective.

    Bargaining chip 

    Trump may have lost the Dreamer issue as his main negotiating point on Tuesday when the Supreme Court refused, at least for now, to consider an administrative appeal of lower court rulings allowing continued temporary protections for the immigrant youths.

    Instead, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme established by then-President Barack Obama in 2012 lives on with or without approval by Congress.

    As the Senate debates Trump's proposal, House Democrats this week are pushing legislation that would end the partial shutdown of agencies including the departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor and Interior.

    While their legislation would contain new border security money, there would be nothing for a wall, ensuring Trump's opposition.

    Once the government reopens, Democrats said, they would negotiate with Trump on further border security ideas.

    "We were optimistic that he might be open up government so we could have this discussion,” Pelosi told reporters in comments carried by CNN. "But then we heard what the particulars were in it and it was a non-starter, unfortunately.”

    Representative Jim Clyburn, the No 3 House Democrat, welcomed any effort by the Republican-led Senate to debate and vote on legislation to reopen the government following that chamber's monthlong abstention.

    "This gets us started," Clyburn told MSNBC in an interview.

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    There were no guarantees that votes by Congress this week actually would break the impasse, as Trump held firm on his $5.7bn demand and Democrats said they would not talk about that until the government reopens.

    The shutdown's impact was being felt at the Federal Bureau of Investigations with the FBI Agents Association saying some investigations were being hindered by a lack of funds.

    Many federal employees and contractors were turning to unemployment assistance, food banks and other support as the shutdown entered its second month. Others began seeking new jobs.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies