Despite sending a pair of snarly, snarky letters hinting that he intended to march into the House chambers with or without an invitation from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Donald Trump tweeted on Wednesday evening that he would hold off on delivering a State of the Union address until his shutdown of the government was over. Since this delay is exactly what Pelosi demanded from the beginning, it’s hard to see Trump’s statement as anything but complete surrender.
On Wednesday, Trump sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi in which he continued to play at ignoring her earlier request that Trump delay his speech until the crises that he created in rejecting bipartisan legislation was resolved. In response, Pelosi made her position clear — she would not introduce the legislation necessary to invite Trump to address a joint session of Congress. The immediate response from Republicans included a considerable amount of flying spittle and suggestions of alternatives. Mitch McConnell could invite Trump to address the Senate. Trump could hold a rally. Maybe he could just drop in of the House and happen to start talking.
But hours later, Trump agreed to exactly what Pelosi has said at the beginning of the exchange — no government funding, no speech. The Washington Post called Trump’s move a “retreat.” The same right-wing sites that were in high moral outrage over Pelosi’s refusal to invite Trump to get his moment in the spotlights, suddenly decided that the State of the Union speech was never that important anyway.
The face-off with Pelosi is a stark symbol of the year ahead for Trump. Having started a shutdown under a compliant Republican House after blowing off legislation that passed the Senate 100-0, Trump has now encountered something he hasn’t seen since he entered the GOP primaries, if ever—someone willing to stand up to his childish demands and not back down.
Pelosi’s actions set the tone for a 2019 in which Trump can no longer take arbitrary action and expect no opposition. Mitch McConnell may still be willing to subject the nation to any damage in order to gain more Republican judges, but on the House side of the aisle Trump’s agenda, such as it is, can expect to face constant demands for reason and fairness, factors that were nonissues in Trump’s first two years.
Score this one Trump zero, Pelosi all your base. And now … round two.
With Adam Schiff now chairing the House Intelligence Committee and a brace of new progressive representatives taking seats on the House Oversight Committee, Trump can expect to spend much of the year responding not just to a serious investigation of his connections to Russia — one not designed to simply give him a pass — but also investigations of his appointees. Under Republicans, administrators like Scott Pruitt got away with an incredible range of misbehavior. That formerly blind eye is now officially open, and the list of those who could be called on the House carpet is near endless.
Throughout his engineered shutdown, all Trump has managed to do is lose support. Recent polls are putting him at his lowest point since the election, while Nancy Pelosi hits record high support. Americans don’t support Trump’s wall. And by a much wider margin, Americans oppose shutting down the government in an effort to get that wall.
Trump can sign the continuing resolution, or he can hold out and fold later, after losing more. Because Pelosi and Democrats are determined, are in the right, and have the support of the public.
Welcome to 2019, Donald Trump.