By Douglas V. Gibbs
Author, Speaker, Instructor, Radio Host
Now that the State of the Union is behind us, let’s answer a few questions about it.
1. Is the State of the Union constitutionally required?
In Article II it states that the President of the United States “shall” deliver the State of the Union speech. However, it also says “from time to time,” which means it is not required to be annual. That is tradition.
2. Does the State of the Union speech have to be delivered at the House of Representatives?
Article II states that the purpose of the State of the Union speech is to advise Congress
, and make recommendations. Congress
is both houses, the House, and the Senate. The Senate chamber is too small to accommodate all of the members of Congress
, so The Capitol (where the House of Representatives meets) has been the traditional location because unlike the Senate, the floor of the House of Representatives is large enough to welcome all members of Congress
, the Supreme Court, and other interested parties.
3. Can the Speaker of the House refuse to allow the President to give his speech in the House chambers?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi denied Trump the opportunity to deliver his State of the Union speech during the government shutdown, but gave in during the temporary cease-fire. According to Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, the House may make its own rules regarding the manner and procedures associated with their part of government. One of those internal rules is that if the President is going to address them, he must be invited by the Speaker of the House. The tradition is long-standing. If the invitation is not given, it cannot be accepted.