When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked President Trump on Wednesday to postpone the State of the Union address, she gave him two options – reschedule the speech, or send it to Congress in a letter.
Pelosi’s letter argued that the speech raised safety concerns because many members of the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security, which handle security for the event, are furloughed due to the partial government shutdown. She noted that a State of the Union address has never before been held during a government shutdown.
Pelosi’s suggestion for a written State of the Union might seem strange to many Americans, but in fact, the U.S. went without a presidential address to a joint session of Congress for 112 years.
The first reference to a “State of the Union” address is in the Constitution. The document states that the president can “from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”
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
The constitution does not say whether or not this information would need to be given aloud, nor how often. It was President George Washington who first interpreted this to be a speech to a joint session of Congress, which was known as the “President’s Address” and President John Adams followed his lead.
President Thomas Jefferson, however, had a very different vision of presidential power – as well as the President’s Address. Jefferson was against strong federal power (and strong presidential power), and thought that the speech seemed to be too regal. He wrote a letter to Congress explaining that he had decided to do without the speech because it was inconvenient, took too long to read, and made it difficult for legislators to respond.
Presidents delivered their addresses to Congress as a letter for 112 years – until President Woodrow Wilson decided to once again deliver it as a speech in December 1913.
At the time, many lawmakers were shocked by Wilson’s decision. “All official Washington was agape last night over the decision of the President to …read more
Source:: Time – Politics