An end to the government shutdown looked more distant than ever on Thursday after President Donald Trump abruptly canceled Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s planned visit to Afghanistan.
The White House publicly released a terse letter informing Pelosi that her planned travel had been “postponed,” shortly after Trump ordered the Pentagon to cancel her Air Force flight to the country. A bus carrying several House Democrats who were to accompany Pelosi was preparing to leave for the airport at the time.
The extraordinary affront appeared to be payback for Pelosi’s request that Trump postpone his annual State of the Union address, scheduled for Jan. 29, though White House officials insisted it wasn’t a tit-for-tat. Pelosi, in her Wednesday letter to Trump, suggested that the partial government shutdown, soon to enter its second month, would create security concerns — a claim the Trump administration contested.
The dueling moves further personalized the shutdown standoff, which centers on Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to fund a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border, and suggested that a Trump-Pelosi relationship that has stayed more or less cordial might be plunging into open hostility.
That could make it even more difficult for the president and his House Democratic rival to strike some kind of face-saving bargain that would resume paychecks for 800,000 federal employees — and many more contract workers — who have not been paid in weeks.
“Due to the Shutdown, I am sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan has been postponed,” Trump wrote in his letter to Pelosi. “We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the Shutdown is over. In light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I am sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate.” Pelosi’s delegation was actually scheduled to return Tuesday, after only six days of travel.
In his letter, the president called on Pelosi to remain in Washington during the shutdown, adding that lawmakers are welcome to travel abroad on commercial flights.