Article II, Section 3 of the United States Constitution says 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.”
This does not have to be in the form of a speech given to a joint session of Congress. This does not even need to be an annual occurrence. “Time to time” leaves a lot of room for interpretation. The Constitution does not state when this has to be done.
So I find it fascinating that there is bickering over the State of the Union Address which was originally scheduled for January 29th, 2019. It would be President Donald Trump’s second official State of the Union address and his third speech given to a joint session of Congress.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) formally invited the President to speak but later informed Trump in a letter on January 16th to postpone the address until after the government shutdown. I find it interesting that she believed that there shouldn’t be a State of the Union Address during the shutdown, but a Congressional overseas trip was A-OK. President Trump nixed the military transportation for that trip.
Today, President Trump in a letter to Speaker Pelosi that he plans to give the State of the Union at the scheduled time. I find this fascinating as he does not have the authority or power to give a speech before Congress without their consent. Article II, Section 3 gives the President the power to call Congress into session for “extraordinary Occasions,” but that does not mean they have to entertain him.
Speaker Pelosi responded saying, “I am writing to inform you that the House of Representatives will not consider a concurrent resolution authorizing the President’s State of the Union address in the House Chamber until has opened.”
I have an idea to solve this controversy. Let’s nix the State of the Union Address since it is not constitutionally required to be given in speech form.
President George Washington gave the first address to Congress on January 8, 1790. President Thomas Jefferson opted instead provided his annual message to Congress in writing which every President did until 1913 when President Woodrow Wilson spoke to Congress on their turf; the first President to do so since John Adams.
The State of the Union Address would not be called the State of the Union Address until President Franklin Roosevelt gave the speech.
For much of our history, we have gone without the State of the Union Address. In 1997, the late Justice Antonin Scalia called the address a “childish spectacle” and refused to attend.
He was right, and it has remained a childish spectacle in the 22 years since he made that remark. The American public, mostly, does not pay attention to it. It’s nothing more than the President’s wish list which, frankly, in a divided Congress he has no hope of accomplishing. The State of the Union Address, has not in recent years, fostered any unity but has been nothing more than a partisan display. The obligatory opposition party response is even worse.
So nix the address, and post a written address with an agenda online for those who are interested to read.