BREAKING Shutdown politics weigh on State of the Union preparations – News


Shutdown politics weigh on State of the Union
preparations. The theme and tone of the speech are now ‘in
flux’ because of the shutdown, one White House official said.
The government shutdown is complicating the White House’s plans for the upcoming State
of the Union address, dimming some administration officials’ hopes that President Donald Trump
would use the high-profile speech to strike a more bipartisan tone. After weeks of quiet planning, senior White
House officials led by Stephen Miller had already drafted key parts of the speech before
Congress came to an impasse over immigration and border security, bringing the federal
government to a standstill. Now the president’s speechwriters and other top advisers are weighing
how to reflect the divisive politics of the shutdown in the address, according to two
administration officials. With the midterm elections looming and the
president polling poorly, some of Trump’s advisers had counseled him to use the speech
to map out a more middle-of-the-road approach to the year ahead. But the shutdown has poisoned
the chances of bipartisan legislative breakthroughs on Capitol Hill and deeply damaged the president’s
relationship with Democrats. The theme and tone of the speech are now “in
flux” because of the shutdown, one White House official told POLITICO. “Now is a natural time for the president
to pivot from partisan activities to bipartisan activities. But the shutdown is all about
partisan politics,” said the official, who speculated that the president’s frustrations
over the shutdown will bleed into the final draft of the speech, especially if the government
remains shuttered for several days. A White House spokesman did not respond to
requests for comment on this story. The speech planning comes as Trump is slated
later this week to travel to Davos, Switzerland, to attend the World Economic Forum, the heart
of the globalist elite, to celebrate his tax reform victory. But he is now caught up in
a domestic drama that threatens to overtake both the trip and the Jan. 30 address. Despite the uncertainty, some elements of
the speech are set in stone. The address is likely to focus heavily on two key issues:
immigration and national security, according to aides. The president is also expected to use the
speech to preview a series of upcoming trade decisions, which could result in a more aggressive
posture toward China. White House aides had seen the speech as a
vehicle to kick off Trump’s infrastructure push by putting pressure on Democrats to support
infrastructure legislation, arguing that the public widely supports efforts to improve
the country’s crumbling roads and bridges. An infrastructure bill faces huge hurdles
on Capitol Hill, but the White House nonetheless hopes to release a more detailed plan soon
after the speech. Senior White House aides have been quietly
working on the speech for weeks, with the president offering handwritten feedback on
drafts. Miller and staff secretary Rob Porter are
taking the lead on crafting the address, along with White House speechwriters Vince Haley
and Ross Worthington. In addition to the president, more than a dozen top White House and administration
officials have weighed in on early drafts, including chief of staff John Kelly. In late December, Porter sent an email to
top officials at federal agencies and senior staff members on the White House’s policy
councils soliciting a list of policy priorities and anecdotes that could be folded into the
speech, according to three people who have seen the memo. Porter and Miller have met several times to
narrow the list and begin turning the feedback from administration officials into draft text.
Parts of the speech have already been circulated to White House policy aides, agency heads
and the White House Office of Management and Budget for review, officials said. The White House has not yet finalized the
list of guests who will sit alongside first lady Melania Trump during the speech, but
one aide said at least one of them is expected to have a back story aimed at promoting the
president’s goal of improving border security. The exact contours of Trump’s message on
immigration during the speech will depend on how long the shutdown drags on and whether
Republicans and Democrats can reach a deal to protect hundreds of thousands of undocumented
immigrants who entered the United States as minors. Still, aides said Trump is certain
to talk about the need for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and for beefing
up border security. Democrats and some Republicans are unlikely
to appreciate the involvement of Miller, Trump’s immigration policy adviser, with the speech. In recent days, lawmakers have complained
that Miller pushed Trump to the right on immigration and stood in the way of a deal to end the
shutdown. “As long as Stephen Miller is in charge of
negotiating immigration, we are going nowhere,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters
on Sunday.

Maurice Vega

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