The State of the Union shifts power to the president. Pelosi took it back.Roundup
tags: State of the Union, shutdown, Trump, Nancy Pelosi
Kathryn Cramer Brownell, an editor at Made by History, is associate professor of history at Purdue University and author of “Showbiz Politics: Hollywood in American Political Life.”
The State of the Union address has become one of the least interesting, least surprising rituals of the presidency, resisting all attempts at innovation. And yet presidents have clung to it, using the speech to claim authorship of the legislative agenda and usurping the role of Congress both physically and rhetorically in the process.
Lawmakers have done little to resist this open challenge to their authority. Until now.
As Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow House Democrats combat President Trump, blocking the State of the Union address if the government had remained shut down was both a symbolic way to contest his legislative authority and a pragmatic path to dimming the media spotlight that he hopes can restore his plummeting poll numbers. Disrupting the tradition may be even more of an affront to Trump, a TV-obsessed president who tracks ratings almost as closely as polls.
In Article II, Section 3 , the Constitution mandates that the president “shall 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.” It does not state how or when these recommendations should be given. Rather, it introduces this expectation as part of a checks-and-balances system designed to hold the executive accountable to Congress for his actions. A report initially intended to help lawmakers manage oversight of the executive branch took more than a century to metastasize into the potent rhetorical weapon it now represents for presidents.
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