WASHINGTON – When President Donald Trump climbs the rostrum to deliver his second State of the Union address, he'll share the stage with the Democrat who has become his most vexing political rival: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
White House aides say Trump intends to deliver a speech focused on bipartisanship. But sitting just over his left shoulder in the House chamber, the California Democrat will be a stark reminder of the precarious state of his proposed border wall, the negotiations to avoid another government shutdown and his legislative agenda for the next two years.
Associates of Pelosi and Trump said the president appears to have initially misread the speaker and underestimated her willingness to stand firm against his demands for money to pay for a border wall. Trump ultimately agreed to temporarily end a 35-day government shutdown last month even though the short-term funding bill included no money for his border wall.
Earlier, the two clashed about the timing of Trump's address. After Pelosi suggested the president wait to deliver the State of the Union until after the government reopened, Trump first threatened to deliver the speech in another venue before he relented and agreed to hold off until Tuesday.
“I think she’s trying to prove that controlling the House allows her to dominate the outcome,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump ally, told USA TODAY. “And he’s trying to prove that being president allows him to define the outcome. And they have very, very dramatic different goals in mind.”
Trump had demanded $5.7 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to end the government shutdown that had dragged on for more than a month, leaving some 800,000 federal employees without a paycheck. Democrats refused to allocate the funds and Pelosi called a wall “immoral.”
"This is the first couple of rounds of a long heavyweight battle I think they’re both trying to see what punches land and how their opposite member reacts," Mark Harkins, a senior fellow at the Government Affairs Institute at Georgetown University.