President Trump sent a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi late Wednesday morning confirming his original acceptance of her invitation to deliver the annual State of the Union address from the U.S. House of Representatives chambers on Jan 29.
“Thank you for you letter of January 3, 2019, sent to me long after the Shutdown began, inviting me to address the Nation on January 29th as to the State of the Union,” the letter begins.
President Trump goes on to summarize the series of communiques between his office and Speaker Pelosi leading up to his official response to her:
Therefore, I will be honoring your invitation, and fulfilling my Constitutional duty, to deliver important information to the people and Congress of the United States of America regarding the State of our Union.
I look forward to seeing you on the evening on January 29th in the Chamber of the House of Representatives. It would be so very sad for our Country if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, on schedule, and very importantly, on location!
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted a copy of the letter:
President Trump’s letter to Speaker Pelosi on the State of the Union pic.twitter.com/B4QN9hDJnv
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) January 23, 2019
As Speaker Pelosi is a leader of a co-equal branch of government, she in theory has “control of the room.” However, upon closer examination of the finer points of that control, she does not have the ability to restrict President Trump from entering the building, or even the House Chambers, according to the latest House Rules (passed by the Republican majority January 5, 2017):
Use and admittance
1. The Hall of the House shall be used only for the legislative business of the House and for caucus and conference meetings of its Members, except when the House agrees to take part in any ceremonies to be observed therein.
2. (a) Only the following persons shall be admitted to the Hall of the House or rooms leading thereto:
(1) Members of Congress, Members elect, and contestants in election cases during the pendency of their cases on the floor.
(2) The Delegates and the Resident Commissioner.
(3) The President and Vice President of the United States and their private secretaries.
So although Speaker Pelosi cannot prevent President Trump from showing up to the House Chamber under the current rules, she very likely does have the ability to prevent him from speaking from the floor.
The House Rules that seem to pertain to this general scenario to not appear to be contemplate a “transgression” by a Chief Executive:
Call to order
4. (a) If a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner, in speaking or otherwise, transgresses the Rules of the House, the Speaker shall, or a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner may, call to order the offending Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner, who shall immediately sit down unless permitted on motion of another Member, Delegate, or the Resident Commissioner to explain. If a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner is called to order, the Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner making the call to order shall indicate the words excepted to, which shall be taken down in writing at the Clerk’s desk and read aloud to the House.
(b) The Speaker shall decide the validity of a call to order. The House, if appealed to, shall decide the question without debate. If the decision is in favor of the Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner called to order, the Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner shall be at liberty to proceed, but not otherwise. If the case requires it, an offending Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner shall be liable to censure or such other punishment as the House may consider proper. A Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner may not be held to answer a call to order, and may not be subject to the censure of the House therefor [sic], if further debate or other business has intervened.
To date, there does not seem to be any precedent in U.S. history where a Speaker denied a sitting President of the United States permission to speak from the House Floor.