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President Donald Trump late Wednesday announced he would not hold a State of the Union address until after the partial government shutdown, now in its fifth week, is over.
The announcement made shortly after 11 p.m. ET seemingly put to rest a dispute between the president and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, over whether the address would be held.
Pelosi said in a letter earlier Wednesday that the Democratic-controlled House “will not consider a concurrent resolution authorizing the president’s State of the Union address in the House chamber until the government has opened.”
Trump said on Twitter: “As the Shutdown was going on, Nancy Pelosi asked me to give the State of the Union Address. I agreed. She then changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date. This is her prerogative – I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over.”
The president is not allowed to speak in the chamber, the traditional spot for the State of the Union address, unless the House and Senate pass a resolution allowing him to do so.
Pelosi responded on Twitter to Trump on Wednesday night by encouraging him to support an effort to end the shutdown.
“Mr. President, I hope by saying ‘near future’ you mean you will support the House-passed package to hashtag End The Shutdown that the Senate will vote on tomorrow,” Pelosi wrote. “Please accept this proposal so we can re-open government, repay our federal workers and then negotiate our differences.”
On Thursday, she downplayed the dispute. “I’m glad we have that off the table because it was about the least important thing we had to talk about. What we have to talk about it opening up government to recognize the pain and unfairness of this shutdown to America’s working families,” she told reporters in the Capitol.
The Senate is scheduled to vote Thursday on two competing bills that aim to re-open the federal government, one that includes funding for a border wall and a Democratic short-term spending bill that excludes border wall funding.
Pelosi had initially invited Trump to give the speech later this month, but she sent him a letter last week asking him to delay his remarks or submit them in writing. She cited concerns over security because of the partial government shutdown, which affects the Department of Homeland Security.
Earlier Wednesday, Trump said, “The State of the Union speech has been canceled by Nancy Pelosi because she doesn’t want to hear the truth. She doesn’t want the American public to hear what’s going on.”
“Great blotch on the incredible country we that all love. Great, great horrible mark,” Trump said.
Asked if he’d be giving a speech Tuesday night, the president responded that an announcement would be forthcoming soon.
The government has been partially shut down since Dec. 22, in a dispute over Trump’s demand that Congress provide $5.7 billion in funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
An estimated 800,000 federal workers have been affected, furloughed or working without pay for now. Congress passed a bill that guarantees back pay for federal workers once the shutdown ends and Trump signed it. But an estimated 1.2 million people who had been working on government contracts aren’t getting paid either and the contractors aren’t likely to get back pay when the impasse eventually ends.
Economists have told NBC News that an extended government shutdown could be catastrophic for the economy, as well as for the almost 40 million Americans who would lose food stamps and 2 million people who could lose rental assistance.
The current government shutdown is the longest in U.S. history.