Iowa parties weigh in on State of the Union

After scheduling conflicts with President Trump’s State of the Union address, Iowa Republicans say that the speech should have been given when originally scheduled in January.


Michael Guhin

Rich Clinite brings up the “fake news” about the Virginia Governor at a meeting of the Iowa City GOP at the Miller Learning Center on Monday, February 4, 2019.

Julia Shanahan, Politics Reporter

As President Trump gets ready to give the annual State of the Union address tonight, Republicans in eastern Iowa think he should’ve given the speech when originally planned in January.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi originally invited Trump in December to give the address in the U.S. House chamber on Jan. 29. But because the government was in partial shutdown, Pelosi withdrew the invitation and told Trump he could not deliver the speech in the House chamber until the shutdown was over.

Dan Smicker, the chair of the Clinton County Republican Party, said it was “courteous” of the president to wait to give a State of the Union speech after the shutdown had ended, but the speech should have been given in January.

“Now is as good a time as any, but [the speech] would have been more pertinent if it was a couple weeks ago,” he said.

Smicker said he supports Trump more now than the day he voted for him, and he believes support for Trump has gone up in his county since the 2016 presidential elections. Trump won Clinton County in 2016 with 48.9 percent of the vote to Hillary Clinton’s 43.8.

“[Trump] needs to enlighten the American people that our government is not functioning harmoniously,” Smicker said. “There are a lot of people in this area who are not willing to back down, politically speaking, at all.”

Janelle Lutgen, the Republican county chair in Jackson County, said she wishes Trump had given the speech when originally scheduled because a lot of people may not understand the politics and reasons the 35-day shutdown began.

“I think he should just tell it like it is,” she said. “It’s quite a different world we live in. I wish there was more bipartisanship.” 

RELATED: Trump to Pelosi: State of the Union is a go  

Lutgen said she hopes Trump addresses the rising prices of pharmaceutical drugs and medicine in his speech. Her son died about a year ago after he lost his job and with it, his health benefits, she said. He could no longer afford insulin.

“People need to know how expensive it is,” Lutgen said. “I didn’t know how expensive it was until after my son passed.”

The president will give his address a little over a week ahead of the next budget deadline. If Congress doesn’t pass additional funding by Feb. 15, the government will partially shut down again.

Bret Nilles, the Democratic county chair in Linn County, said today is a better time to give the speech than two weeks ago, when the government was shut down. However, he thought the president should have waited until after Congress passes a budget.

“If federal employees aren’t getting paid, why should [Trump] be giving a State of the Union address?” Nilles said.

He said he thinks Pelosi did the right thing in delaying the speech, and Trump needed someone to stand up to him, because the Republican Party hasn’t since the shutdown occurred.

“What Speaker Pelosi did was appropriate in trying to show that the legislative branch isn’t just there to rubber stamp everything [Trump] wants,” Nilles said.

Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, in a statement criticizing the president and the government shutdown, invited one of her constituents, the president of an association representing Iowa Farm Service Agency county employees, to the State of the Union.

How to watch the State of the Union

President Trump will deliver the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at 8 p.m. CST, which will be broadcast on major television and radio networks. The White House is also hosting its own online livestream.

The University of Iowa College Republicans will have a watch party beginning at 7:45 p.m. in 40 Schaffer Hall.

A Democratic group will hold a watch party at Big Grove Brewery, 1225 S. Gilbert St., from 7:30-10 p.m. The organization, called Fair Fight Action, was founded by Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost the Georgia gubernatorial election in 2018. She will deliver the Democrats’ response to the State of the Union.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article misspelled Stacey Abrams. The DI regrets the error.