Lawmakers Meet Ahead of Trump Speech: ‘Now Is the Time for Both Sides to Reach Agreement’

Kevin McCarthy spoke to reporters after Pence meeting

Image Credit: Win McNamee/Staff/Getty Images & Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Congressional leaders discussed the ongoing border wall debate and government shutdown on Tuesday in the hours leading up to a prime-time address from the Oval Office by President Donald Trump.

“Now is the time for both sides to come together and reach an agreement,” House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters alongside his leadership colleagues.

“The president will speak tonight. I look forward to hearing what he has to say. I hope the American people will be able to listen and find this president wants to solve this problem, not like others.”

As part of his push to stop illegal immigration, Trump has promised to veto spending bills that don’t include $5.6 billion to fund a border wall.

Democratic leaders have fought back against the president by refusing to give him anything.

The impasse between the two sides is what led to a partial government shutdown starting on December 22.

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McCarthy talked with reporters following a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

They discussed the border security crisis and the president’s address to follow on Tuesday night. McCarthy was joined at the meeting and press conference by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.).

Related: Shutdown Won’t Impact Tax Returns, Says White House Official

“I’ve watched this president at a number of meetings I’ve been in with him,” McCarthy said. “I’ve watched the speaker of the House first disrupt the secretary, wouldn’t let her give her own presentation. Then as we continued these meetings days later, when the secretary finally has the opportunity to provide facts, she says I disagree with the facts. They’re not the secretary’s facts. They’re the facts that are happening along the border.”

Trump is scheduled to give a prime-time television address about the humanitarian and national security crisis on the southern border later in the night. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders also announced that the president will be traveling to the southern border on Thursday.

Trump has long promised to build a security wall along the southern border.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have been at the forefront of opposing that plan.

Schumer has only offered to provide $1.3 billion for border security, but those funds cannot go toward the border wall.

“I appreciate the fact that the president has a strong resolve to solve this crisis while working to re-open the government,” Scalise said. “What we have seen from Pelosi and Schumer is a refusal to negotiate. This goes back to weeks ago when we passed a bill in the House to fully fund the remaining agencies of the federal government while solving the crisis in the southern border.”

McCarthy said they didn’t discuss the president’s declaring a state of emergency in response to the border crisis. Trump has reportedly been considering doing just that. The move could possibly allow the president to free up billions in emergency funds for his wall through the National Emergencies Act.

But there is a question on whether he could actually do that — and whether he would do it.

Trump and congressional leaders from both parties have continued discussions to overcome the stalemate.

Despite those efforts, the two sides have remained firm in their positions. The president has repeatedly reaffirmed his commitment to funding the border wall since the shutdown began.

“President Trump has the power to stop hurting the country by re-opening the government and ending the Trump shutdown,” Schumer and Pelosi said in a statement earlier in the day on Tuesday. “Democrats and an increasing number of Republicans in Congress have repeatedly urged the president and Leader McConnell to end the Trump shutdown and re-open the government while Congress debates the president’s expensive and ineffective wall.”

The Democratic leaders argued that the president’s address on Tuesday night is likely to be filled with malice and misinformation based on past statements. Democrats, they added, must immediately be given equal airtime to respond to what he said during the address.

“Unfortunately, President Trump keeps rejecting the bipartisan House-passed bills, which have already received strong bipartisan support in the Senate, to re-open the government,” Schumer and Pelosi also said. “Instead, he is still demanding that American taxpayers pay at least $5.7 billion for his wall, which can’t pass either chamber of Congress, and of course Mexico is not paying for.”

Related: Trump Plans Southern Border Trip Amid Government Shutdown

House Democrats have made a few attempts of their own to end the shutdown.

They passed two bills intended to fund most of the government while leaving room to debate border security. They later announced a plan to pass four separate appropriations bills. But without border wall funding, they are unlikely to get far unless the president caves in. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he wouldn’t bring up any bills the president wouldn’t sign.

Trump has since made clear he won’t sign anything that doesn’t include border wall funding including short-term bills.

Pelosi has argued that Senate Republicans should support the plan because it’s based on legislation they passed or advanced through committees.

The difference is those earlier proposals were passed in the hopes they would become law. Trump has since made clear he won’t sign anything that doesn’t include border wall funding including short-term bills.

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