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As Trump and Pelosi spar over State of the Union, Democrats consider funding compromise

On day 33 of the government shutdown, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House won't host the president's State of the Union address until the shutdown is resolved. In response, President Trump said Pelosi is "afraid of the truth." Meanwhile, some Democrats are considering a new plan for $5.7 billion in border security, but no wall. Judy Woodruff talks to Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    After 33 days, much of the U.S. government is still closed, hundreds of thousands of federal workers are still going unpaid, and the State of the Union address is now officially a casualty.

    President Trump had insisted on speaking before Congress, as planned, on January 29. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi informed him today that the House will not host the speech while the shutdown continues.

    They spoke at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.:

    We have said very clearly from the start when I wrote to him the second time to say, since government is shutdown, let's work together on a mutually agreeable date, when we can welcome you to the Capitol to give a State of the Union address. Government is still shut down. I still make the offer.

  • Donald Trump:

    The State of the Union speech has been canceled by Nancy Pelosi because she doesn't want to hear the truth. She doesn't want the American public to hear what's going on. And she's afraid of the truth. And the super left Democrats, the radical Democrats, what's going on in that party is shocking.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Amid the sparring over the State of the Union, there were faint signs of possible movement on ending the shutdown. Several top House Democrats suggested they might offer up to $5.7 billion for border security, but not for a wall.

    The number three House Democrat, James Clyburn, said the money would pay for immigration judges, border agents and technology.

  • Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C.:

    I think that it can be done using the figure that the president has put on the table. If his $5.7 billion is about border security, then we see ourselves fulfilling that request, only doing it with what I like to call using a smart wall.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The president also vowed to do what he called an alternative event. He said he would have the details later.

    Meanwhile, several hundred furloughed federal workers protested in a Senate building today. Capitol Police arrested 11 people who attempted a sit-in outside Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office.

    For insight into all of this, I'm joined now by our congressional correspondent, Lisa Desjardins, and our White House correspondent, Yamiche Alcindor.

    So, Yamiche, I'm going to start with you.

    What is the president saying right now about his position on the shutdown and what the motivation is behind him to just keep pushing his position?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, the president doesn't want to look weak, and he doesn't want to look like he's caving in to Democrats.

    Today, he called Democrats dangerous and said that they're being radicalized and that they can't be trusted with border security. He also used what some people saw as loaded language when talking about Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He said Nancy Pelosi is dominating Chuck Schumer.

    That would be, of course, Senator Chuck Schumer. And that — and that Chuck Schumer is a puppet of Nancy Pelosi. Now, we see the president kind of scrambling to decide how he's going to deal with Nancy Pelosi and his strategy with her.

    Usually, when he's given people nicknames, like crooked Hillary for Hillary Clinton or lying Ted for Ted Cruz, but in this case, he just said Nancy, who I like to call Nancy.

    The other thing to note is that the president is facing pressure from his own conservative base. There was a group of conservatives who met today with the president at the White House. And one of them was the president of the Heritage Foundation. Her husband is actually one of the people that's furloughed, a federal worker.

    This is large thing tank based in Washington, D.C. And she told me, even though I want my husband to go back to work, I want the president not to blink.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Lisa, turning to you and the Democrats, they seem to be digging in. What is their mind-set? What is their thinking?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right, Judy.

    Talking to Democrats today, I have to say they seemed more united than last week, and not just portraying unity, but actually when they talk off the record really more united.

    One reason is because moderates are happy that Democrats are preparing an offer. They felt like Democrats weren't coming to the table and needed to do that. Now, progressives are happy because they like seeing Nancy Pelosi stand up to the president in this way. I heard a lot of progressive mentioned — progressive Democrats mentioned things like, we are a co-equal branch of government, and Speaker Pelosi should lay down her line on the State of the Union.

    Now, Republicans, however, they think the State of the Union gambit here is a political problem ahead, but we will see how that all rolls out.

    And, meanwhile, I want to talk about some strange logistical questions here. Judy, preparations for a State of the Union should be under way now. Production trucks were supposed to get to the Capitol tomorrow. And I'm told that that is not going to happen, that there's no preparations that will be made for any kind of speech.

    Also, it's important to know that the president does have the right to enter the House chamber. He has floor privileges. He can walk in the chamber almost any time that he likes. However, he does not have the ability to speak from the podium or dais without the House extending that invitation.

    Another question, how about the Senate chamber? I have been asking Senator McConnell's office, the Republican leader there, if that is a possibility. I don't have a firm answer yet. But we know that in the past nine U.S. presidents have spoken just in the U.S. Senate chamber.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Fascinating.

    So, Yamiche, what is the president, what's the White House saying the president's going to do if you can't do the speech in the traditional manner in the House of Representatives?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, President Trump is weighing his options and trying to figure out where he wants to give the State of the Union speech.

    The president himself said that the Capitol was basically off the table and that he's now looking at other ways to do this. It's important to note that the president wants to deliver this speech because polls show that his approval ratings are really taking a hit because of the shutdown.

    One poll that was that was released today, in part by the Associated Press, shows that his approval rating is at 34 percent and that people don't agree with a lot of the idea that he's shutting down the government for this wall.

    The other thing to note, I ran into Vice President Mike Pence today at the White House. I posed the question to him, what do you think of Nancy Pelosi's stance? What's the president going to do with the State of the Union? All he would say is the president has a constitutional duty to deliver the State of the Union and he will be doing that.

    So we will just have to see where he ends up doing that speech.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Yamiche, running into the vice president's a good way to get information.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Yes.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa, back to you.

    We were reporting on that protest of government federal employees at the Capitol today. You were there talking to them. What are they saying?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right.

    Now, I want to say this protest that I went to was one of the more organized and dignified protests that I have been to recently. It was 33 minutes of silence, one for each day of the shutdown, and then some very limited chanting.

    I spoke to many of the workers, federal workers who were there, workers from USDA, from FEMA, from many agencies. They say for now they have used mostly savings to pay for their mortgage bills. Many of them just paid mortgage bills using savings or borrowing money.

    And I want to highlight one story. I spoke to one worker from Denver, Judy. This is a female worker who used airline miles to travel here just for this protest today. He told me he had been a Republican in years past. He recently switched to independent.

    And he said — quote — "I have never been engaged in politics before. This has charged me up. This is a problem for me personally and for my agency and the emergency functions that it holds."

    So it was really an interesting crowd full of people.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Clearly, the shutdown having far-reaching impact.

    Lisa, thank you very much.

    Yamiche, thank you.

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