This week: Trump to give State of the Union before impeachment trial wraps
President Trump is slated to deliver his third State of the Union address just one day before the Senate is expected to acquit him of the two articles of impeachment.
The back-to-back events come amid a jam-packed week that will also include the Iowa caucuses on Monday and another debate among Democratic White House hopefuls on Friday in the lead-up to the New Hampshire primary next week.
Trump will speak from the House chamber on Tuesday night, providing his first face-to-face meeting with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) since House Democrats voted last year to impeach him on two articles: abusing his power with his actions surrounding Ukraine and obstructing Congress in its investigations of those actions.
Trump is expected to use the speech to tout his vision as Washington increasingly turns its attention to the looming November election, where the president is fighting to hold onto the White House and both chambers of Congress are up for grabs.
“The theme of the State of the Union is the great American comeback,” one senior administration official told reporters Friday. “In his address, the president will lay out a vision of relentless optimism.”
“He will encourage Congress to work with him to continue building an inclusive economy where the least well-off are making some of the fastest gains and where people of every background are finding new opportunities,” the official said.
The wild card is whether Trump will discuss the impeachment trial, or use the speech to lash out at the House Democrats who will be sitting in the chamber.
Trump is the second president to give a State of the Union address while in the middle of an impeachment trial.
The first, then-President Clinton in 1999, used the speech to discuss a laundry list of policies — including the economy, education and foreign policy — and played up the need for bipartisanship to tackle the country’s big problems. But Clinton notably did not address the impeachment trial, where he was eventually found not guilty on both counts.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has emerged as a vocal defender of Trump’s, noted Clinton’s decision and recommended Trump follow suit and skip talking about the ongoing trial.
“I just encourage him to be positive, to talk about what we’ve done and what we can do,” Graham said.
The impeachment trial will also give Democrats a chance to counterprogram against Trump in prime time. Reporters will be closely watching for any interactions between Pelosi and Trump, after the Speaker went viral last year for clapping with her arms outstretched in response to Trump calling for an end to “revenge politics.”
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will deliver the Democratic response to the State of the Union; meanwhile, Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) will deliver the Spanish-language response to the speech.
“This response is an exciting opportunity to show the American people that not only are Democrats getting things done for them, but also for future generations to come,” Whitmer said in a statement.
A handful of House Democrats are also mulling skipping the speech, while female Democrats are reprising their coordinated white outfits to show solidarity with women.
The Senate is on track to wrap Trump’s impeachment trial on Wednesday after Republicans muscled through a resolution along party lines that established the process for ending the trial.
Democrats were quick to claim victory over delaying the two votes on the articles of impeachment until after Trump’s State of the Union. They were aided by division in the GOP ranks, with a handful of senators requesting time to publicly explain their decision on the Senate floor ahead of the votes.
“McConnell and Republicans wanted to rush through an acquittal vote. … But Democrats wanted votes on witnesses and documents, for the House managers to be able to make closing arguments, ample time for every member to speak, and to prevent GOP from rushing this through,” said a spokesman for Schumer.
The move to end the impeachment trial comes after Republicans on Friday successfully blocked a push to allow either Trump’s legal team or House impeachment managers to call witnesses.
Under the resolution, both sides will get two hours each on Monday to present their closing arguments to senators, and the American public.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the lead impeachment manager, said he would continue to make the case for Trump’s removal from office.
Schiff, during an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation,” said it was “enormously important” to understand Trump’s actions and warned that the president was “threatening to still cheat in the next election.” Trump has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
“I’m not letting the senators off the hook. … We’re still going to go into the Senate this week and make the case why this president needs to be removed,” Schiff said.
After closing arguments, the Senate is expected to adjourn the trial until Wednesday at 4 p.m. The decision will give Chief Justice John Roberts a break from presiding over the chamber, and will allow senators to avoid being stuck on the floor for hours.
In the interim, senators are expected to use the Senate floor to publicly explain their votes on whether to convict Trump on the two articles of impeachment.
Trump’s acquittal is all but guaranteed in the GOP-controlled chamber, where Republicans hold 53 seats and 67 votes would be needed to convict.
But a handful of senators in both parties have yet to say how they will vote. Among Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) have yet to announce a decision.
Murkowski told reporters late last week that she had made a decision, but declined to say how she would vote. Romney was asked as he left a GOP lunch on Friday, but just laughed and kept walking.
Meanwhile Republicans are keeping a close eye on a trio of Democratic senators — Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) and Doug Jones (Ala.) — to see if they will vote to acquit Trump on one or both articles.
The House will vote Thursday on a resolution to block Trump’s new Medicaid block grant program.
“Congress has a responsibility to protect Medicaid beneficiaries from the harm that would be caused by this new guidance. The goal of this new waiver is clear: reduce access to health care for millions of low-income Americans, including access to affordable prescription drugs. The Democratic-led House will not allow this challenge to health care access in our country to go unanswered,” Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a statement last week.
The administration’s plan will let states apply for a waiver to reduce Medicaid spending by changing part of their funding into a block grant. Supporters of Medicaid argue the administration’s plan would hurt low-income people and allow states to cut costs and reduce coverage.
But Democrats face an uphill battle to block Trump’s plan through legislation given that the resolution is unlikely to pass the GOP-controlled Senate.
The House will vote on legislation to provide support for Puerto Rico to help the island territory recover from a series of recent earthquakes.
The nearly $4.67 billion package includes $100 million for education, $1.25 billion for repairs to roadways and $3.26 billion through Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) block grants, according to a summary released by the House Appropriations Committee.
Lowey, in a statement, argued that the island has “urgent needs following recent earthquakes.”
“House Democrats’ emergency supplemental appropriations bills provides targeted assistance to help families and communities recover from these devastating earthquakes and puts the island on a better path to long-term recovery,” she added.