MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On Wednesday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi asked President Donald Trump to postpone the January 29 State of the Union address until the government reopens.

Delaying the traditionally annual address has only happened once before. In 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded the morning President Ronald Reagan was set to give the speech before Congress. He postponed it for one week.

So, what are the rules for the State of the Union address? Good Question.

George Washington first appeared before a joint session of Congress in 1790, when the United States Capitol was in New York City. Ten years later, Thomas Jefferson submitted the report in writing. It would be delivered that way until 1913, when Woodrow Wilson took it back before the Senators and Representatives.

President Trump’s 2018 State of the Union address (credit: CBS)

The first televised address was given by Harry Truman in 1947. They are generally given on a Tuesday evening in late January or early February.

The U.S. Constitution says the president “shall from time to time give the Congress information on the State of the Union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

The Constitution does not spell out how, when or where that information should be given. As per tradition, the president appears before a joint session of Congress at the invitation of the House and Senate.

“What Nancy Pelosi can do it not let him appear before Congress,” said David Schultz, a professor of political science at Hamline University. “But she can’t prevent him from giving a State of the Union address.”

Since Truman first gave his televised address, he skipped the speech once. Eisenhower skipped it twice, one of those times opting for the radio. Nixon didn’t give an address in 1973. Carter sent a written report in 1981 four days before Reagan was sworn into office.

There has never been a government shutdown when the State of the Union was supposed to be given.

Heather Brown

  1. Bruce Pestell says:

    Good. Now that she has refused to consider a resolution for a joint session we won’t have to look at that blithering, semi-sentient, obnoxious woman grimacing in the background distracting from the president’s speech.