No State of the Union? Trump Can Counter Pelosi by Blocking Some Hearings

COMMENTARY Political Process

No State of the Union? Trump Can Counter Pelosi by Blocking Some Hearings

Jan 28th, 2019 1 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Mike Howell

Senior Advisor, Executive Branch Relations

Mike is a Senior Advisor for Executive Branch Relations at The Heritage Foundation.
Pelosi could hardly argue that their political sideshows are of greater constitutional import than the State of the Union. Tom Williams / Contributor/Getty Images

Key Takeaways

Nonconfirmation congressional hearings do not occupy a space superior to the State of the Union in the Constitution.

Pelosi’s withdrawal of the State of the Union invitation is petty politics at its worst.

Refusing government witnesses for nonconfirmation hearings is a tool that the president can employ.

It’s official: Speaker Nancy Pelosi is denying President Trump the opportunity to deliver the State of the Union from the House floor, at least until the government completely re-opens. While this unprecedented move will score her points with the radical left, the logic she employs opens her up to a much more meaningful and justified counter: the president withholding executive branch witnesses from nonconfirmation congressional hearings.

Initially, Pelosi broached the idea of postponing the speech based on security concerns. After security professionals debunked this excuse, she changed her story to cite the unfairness of federal workers not being paid having to work the event. Well, by the same token, should government workers be forced to prepare for, staff, and testify at the forthcoming gauntlet of House hearings?

They especially shouldn’t have to do so while the legislative branch is fully funded and members of Congress are drawing their full salaries (though some are deferring or declining their paychecks while the shutdown is ongoing). These hearings require massive resources, and it hardly seems fair that these workers have to be paid for working on Pelosi’s partisan, vindictive agenda.

Pelosi could hardly argue that their political sideshows are of greater constitutional import than the State of the Union. Nonconfirmation congressional hearings do not occupy a space superior to the State of the Union in the Constitution. After all, the State of the Union is actually mentioned, whereas nothing about oversight or hearings is included in this founding document. All the statutes in the world about congressional testimony can’t overpower the Constitution.

Furthermore, there is a much longer practice of delivering the speech from the House floor than there is for the current style of made-for-cable-television congressional hearings which rarely result in any meaningful legislation. Perhaps answering questions in writing would produce a better exchange than the current berate-and-interrupt format which only inform the public as to which member of Congress is willing to feign the most outrage.

Pelosi’s withdrawal of the State of the Union invitation is petty politics at its worst. The tit-for-tat she is interested in is not in the country’s best interest as it will only continue to escalate. Imagine if the roles were reversed and the Republicans denied a Democrat president similarly.

However, it does open the door for the president to help keep Congress focused on the matters at hand instead of wasting their time in hearing sideshows. Refusing government witnesses for nonconfirmation hearings is a tool that the president can employ. President Trump would now be justified in using it.

This piece originally appeared in The Washington Examiner