Chatfield makes play for Trump to move State of Union speech to Michigan

By: - January 18, 2019 7:21 pm

Christine Greig (left), Dana Nessel (center) and Lee Chatfield (right), talking about civil asset forfeiture legislation at the Capitol on Jan. 9, 2019 | House Republicans photo

In a move that may get national attention, Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) has submitted an “official invitation” to President Donald Trump to deliver his State of the Union address in the Michigan Legislature.

Trump may not be delivering his speech in Congress, as is tradition, as U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) disinvited the Republican president over “security concerns” during the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history. Trump has said he is not interested in reopening the government until he gets money for his border wall with Mexico and has even mused about declaring a national emergency to that end.

Chatfield announced this request to the public via Twitter, criticizing federal politics for being “bogged down in partisan politics” and writing in a letter to Trump that the presidential address should be about serving constituents — not politics.

The new house speaker’s request was retweeted by Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, a fellow Michigan native.

Michigan is considered to be a key swing state as the 2020 election season has already begun in earnest.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump made several stops in Michigan and narrowly won the state over Democrat Hillary Clinton by 10,704 votes. It was the first time Michigan voted Republican in a presidential election since 1988.

“There is no higher loyalty or obligation than to the people we serve and the communities we represent, and no partisan gamesmanship should stand in the way of that serve,” Chatfield said in his letter to Trump. “Because of that, this chamber and this speaker are willing to put people before politics for this important occasion.”

Chatfield, a Republican who became House Speaker in January after former House Speaker Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt) left due to term limits, told Trump that although Michigan also has a “divided government,” Republicans “understand that the success of our Democratic governor means the success of Michigan.”

He continued, “Even though we will disagree, we will always work together to improve the lives of our local families and seniors, because we have a solemn responsibility to do so. However, because some have chosen to stand in the way of your official duties, we would be honored to host you in our Capitol for this necessary address to our nation.

“Washington, D.C. may be bogged down in partisan politics, but Michigan is different. Michigan helped build this country, and we know how to get things done. In the Great Lakes state, we roll up our sleeves and work hard every day. That includes working collaboratively, regardless of party, and together we can prove it to the rest of the country.”

Sam Inglot, a spokesman for the liberal group Progress Michigan, was quick to respond, “We get it, you want @realDonaldTrump to tweet about you. Simmer down there, bucko. Your blind ambition is showing.”

In a joint press release with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said they are “profoundly distressed by the ongoing government shutdown and the total lack of progress toward reaching a resolution.”

Whitmer, a Democrat who visited the White House before taking office to meet with Trump, pressed the president and Republicans to “immediately reopen the government” and argued that lost income to federal workers — many of whom are working class — is financially damaging.

Gretchen Whitmer

“Each of us has taken active measures permitted by law to alleviate the pain of the partial government shutdown, including providing unemployment benefits to furloughed federal workers and their families in our states who have missed paychecks and are now facing a very real threat of missing payments on their rent, mortgages, credit cards, phone bills and car loans,” Whitmer said.

“Unfortunately, current federal regulations are preventing us from providing the same assistance to federal employees who are continuing to work full-time, despite not being paid for their work,” she continued. “This disparity is patently unfair and wrong. For the hundreds of thousands of federal workers who remain on their jobs — including Coast Guard members, TSA agents, air traffic controllers, food safety inspectors, CBP agents, and more — our states’ hands are tied from providing this much-needed relief.”

The statement did not mention Chatfield’s Trump request.

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Michael Gerstein
Michael Gerstein

Michael Gerstein is a former Advance reporter covering the Governor's office, criminal justice and the environment.