It took US President Donald Trump one day to flex his executive power back at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, denying her an aircraft for a planned trip abroad in apparent response to her attempt to delay his State of the Union address amid the US government shutdown.
The two leaders appeared to be engaged in a game of constitutional tit-for-tat as negotiations to end the four-week stalemate failed to produce results.
In a letter to Pelosi on Thursday, Trump said that due to the shutdown a trip to Egypt, Brussels and Afghanistan would be delayed, saying: “In light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I’m sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate.”
The White House also announced the cancelation of a trip to the World Economic Forum by US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and others.
Pelosi and her delegation were due to travel aboard a US Air Force plane.
According to a congressional aide, several lawmakers were already loaded onto buses preparing to leave the US Capitol when Trump pulled the plug.
Trump said that Pelosi could still book her own non-government flights.
“Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative,” he wrote.
Pelosi would normally make such a trip on a military aircraft supplied by the Pentagon.
According to a defense official, Pelosi did request US Department of Defense support for overseas travel and it was initially approved.
The official was not authorized to speak by name about the matter, so spoke on condition of anonymity.
The official said the president does have the authority to cancel the use of military aircraft.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump wanted Pelosi to stay in Washington before Tuesday, a deadline to prepare the next round of paychecks for federal workers.
“We want to keep her in Washington,” Sanders said. “The president wants her here to negotiate.”
Meanwhile, the US Department of State on Thursday instructed US diplomats in Washington and elsewhere to return to work next week with pay, saying it had found money for their salaries at least temporarily, despite the ongoing government shutdown.
In a notice to staff posted online and sent to employees, the department said it had found money to pay most of its employees beginning Sunday or Monday for their next pay period.
They would not be paid for time worked since the shutdown began until the situation is resolved, said the notice, which was signed by US Deputy Undersecretary of State for Management William Todd.
The department said it would use “existing funds as well as other available fiscal authorities to shift existing balances to restart payroll funding.”
The department said it was taking the step because it had become clear that the lapse in funding is harming essential diplomatic and national security objectives.
“While the department has done its best to address matters essential to achieving US national security and foreign policy objectives during the ongoing lapse, it has become clear as the lapse has continued to historic lengths that we need our full team to address the myriad critical issues requiring US leadership around the globe and to fulfill our commitments to the American people,” it said.
It added that the department’s leadership was “deeply concerned” about the financial hardships faced by its employees.
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