Washington: US president Donald Trump has postponed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's trip to meet military officials and troops in Afghanistan and Brussels, saying she was needed in Washington DC for negotiations to end the partial government shutdown.
Trump's move came on Thursday a day after the House Speaker urged him to reschedule his annual State of the Union address slated for 29 January, citing security concerns triggered by the shutdown that has entered its 27th day.
"Due to the shutdown, I am sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan has been postponed. We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the Shutdown is over," Trump said in a letter to Pelosi, a copy of which was released to the press. The president also said postponing this "public relations event" was totally appropriate.
The longest-ever shutdown in US history has rendered over 8,00,000 federal employees without work, crippling the functioning of several key wings of the government including Security and State department.
“In light of the 8,00,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I am sure you would agree that,” Trump said.
However, Pelosi's spokesman Drew Hammaill said the visit's purpose was to express appreciation to US troops and obtain "critical" briefings from them. The trip did not have Egypt as a stop, he said.
The shutdown is a result of the bitter political divide over border security issue as the Democrats who now enjoy majority in the House have refused to approve a legislation approving $5.7 billion in federal funding to construct a wall across the US-Mexico border.
"I also feel that, during this period, it would be better if you were in Washington negotiating with me and joining the strong border security movement to end the shutdown. Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative,” Trump said.
The president said: “I look forward to seeing you soon and even more forward to watching our open and dangerous Southern Border finally receive the attention, funding, and security it so desperately deserves!”
Trump's letter to Pelosi came soon after the House Speaker told reporters at the US Capitol that the president has been silent for more than 24 hours on the issue of rescheduling his annual State of the Union address.
“We haven't heard. It was a very silent more than 24 hours, to your question that you ask me every time I step out of the office, have you heard? No, we haven't heard yet.” Pelosi said taking a dig at the president.
The House Speaker's spokesman, Hammill, said the Congressional Delegation to Afghanistan included a required stop in Brussels for pilot rest.
In Brussels, the delegation was scheduled to meet with top NATO commanders, US military leaders and key allies — to affirm the United States' ironclad commitment to the NATO alliance. This weekend visit to Afghanistan did not include a stop in Egypt, the spokesman said.
“The purpose of the trip was to express appreciation and thanks to our men and women in uniform for their service and dedication, and to obtain critical national security and intelligence briefings from those on the front lines,” Hammill said.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said, “We want to keep her (Pelosi) in Washington. If she leaves, she guarantees that the second round of paychecks to 8,00,000 federal workers won't go out. The deadline to make that deal is midnight on Tuesday."
“She wasn't scheduled to be back until Wednesday. The president wants her here to negotiate," she said.
President Trump insists that building a wall is the only solution to protect the nation from a large flow of illegal immigrants and drug smuggling.
The Democrats are opposed to any such funding. After Trump walked out of a meeting at the White House last week, Democrats have refused to come to the negotiation table.
The ongoing shutdown on 12 January broke the previous record of 21 days of US government shutdown under the Bill Clinton administration from 16 December, 1995 to 5 January, 1996.
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Updated Date: Jan 18, 2019 09:52:44 IST