Trump to skip St. Patrick’s Day Hill luncheon, blames Pelosi

Donald Trump

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting about the coronavirus at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Friday, March 6, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Irish eyes at the U.S. Capitol will not smile on President Donald Trump on St. Patrick’s Day.

Trump is skipping an annual bipartisan luncheon with House and Senate lawmakers celebrating the ties that bind the U.S. and Ireland, a White House spokesman said.

Trump blamed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“Since the speaker has chosen to tear this nation apart with her actions and her rhetoric, the president will not participate in moments where she so often chooses to drive discord and disunity,” spokesman Judd Deere said in an emailed statement.

The House speaker traditionally hosts the luncheon.

Trump instead will celebrate with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar at the White Houseon Thursday — five days before St. Patrick’s Day.

Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi, said congressional support for the U.S.-Ireland relationship has never been stronger.

“One would think that the White House could set petty, partisan politics aside for this historic occasion,” Hammill said in an email.

Trump attended the luncheon in 2017 and 2018 when Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was speaker, and in 2019, after Pelosi, D-Calif, won back the gavel.

Trump remains incensed at Pelosi for leading the Democratic-controlled House in December to impeach him after he asked Ukraine’s leader to investigate Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden while delaying delivery of military aid Congress had approved to help the country defend against Russian aggression. The Senate’s Republican majority voted in February to acquit Trump.

Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, D-Mass., hosted the first St. Patrick’s Day lunch in 1983. President Ronald Reagan and other House and Senate lawmakers attended the gathering, which had been arranged to ease tension between the two Irish-American leaders, according to the House.

The lunch became an annual event on Capitol Hill in 1987, missed by presidents just four times since then. Bill Clinton sent regrets after having knee surgery two days before St. Patrick’s Day in 1997. George W. Bush passed on the 2003 lunch, held days before the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Last year, Pelosi said the lunch is “a tradition where we dispense with our differences, whether they’re political or whether they’re competitive in any other way.”

Politico first reported Trump’s decision.

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Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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