President Donald Trump stressed the importance of a border security wall amid the partial government shutdown Tuesday night during his first televised address from the Oval Office.
The president echoed many of the same points he’s made before about illegal immigration and his border wall. But making the address from the Oval Office added a certain historical significance, as it’s often reserved for significant announcements. At the very least, it stressed just how important the issue was and is to the president.
“They changed their minds only after I became president,” Trump said.
“Democrats in Congress have refused to acknowledge the crisis. And they have refused to provide our brave border agents will the tools they desperately need to protect our families and our nation,” he said.
Trump has relentlessly fought to get funding for a border wall funding. He has even threatened to veto spending bills until he gets it. Democratic leaders have been equally set in their opposition to providing any funding. The stalemate led both sides to the ongoing government shutdown on December 22.
“The federal government remains shut down for one reason, and one reason only,” Trump said. “Because Democrats will not fund border security. My administration is doing everything in its power to help those impacted by this situation. But the only solution is for Democrats to pass a spending bill that defends our borders and reopens the government.”
“This situation could be solved in a 45-minute meeting. I have invited congressional leadership to the White House tomorrow to get this done,” he said with emphasis. “Hopefully, we can rise above partisan politics in order to support national security.”
Trump didn’t declare a state of emergency during the address, as some had speculated might happen. But he has reportedly been considering doing just that. The move could possibly allow him to free up billions in emergency funds for the wall through the National Emergencies Act. But he is likely to face legal challenges over whether he can do it.
Trump went into great detail throughout his speech, describing the dangers of letting illegal immigration go unchecked. He warned it allows gang members and drugs to flood into the country. He noted that in the last two years, ICE officers made 266,000 arrest of illegal aliens with criminal records. He also mentioned stories of people killed by illegal immigrants in gangs.
“American proudly welcomes millions of migrants who enrich our society and contribute to our nation,” Trump said. “But all Americans are hurt by uncontrolled illegal migration … It strains public resources and drives down jobs and wages. Among those hardest hit are American Americans and Hispanic Americans.”
Trump first announced he would be delivering a prime-time address to the nation in a tweet a day prior.
He promised to discuss the humanitarian and national security crisis on the southern border. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders also announced a couple of hours before that the president would travel to the southern border on Thursday.
Trump has long pledged to build a security wall along the southern border and is fighting to get $5.6 billion to do so. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have opposed that plan and have only offered to provide $1.3 billion for border security that can’t go toward the wall.
“Sadly, much of what we heard from President Trump throughout this senseless shutdown has been misinformation and even malice,” Pelosi said while giving a rebuttal to the address alongside Schumer. “The president has chosen fear — we want to start with the facts. The fact is, on the very first day of this Congress, House Democrats passed Senate Republican legislation to re-open the government and fund smart and effective border security.”
House Democrats 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. Pelosi has argued that Senate Republicans should support the plan because it’s based on legislation they passed or advanced through committees.
“But the president is rejecting this bipartisan bills, which would re-open the government over his obsession with forcing American taxpayers to waste billions of dollars on an expensive and ineffective wall,” Pelosi said. “A wall he promised Mexico would pay for. The fact is, President Trump has chosen to hold hostage critical service for the health, safety and well being or the American people.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he wouldn’t bring up any bills the president wouldn’t sign. So without border wall funding, those bills are unlikely to get far unless the president caves in. The difference is those earlier proposals were passed in the hopes they would become law.
McConnell made earlier attempts to avert the government shutdown like a short-term spending bill to fund the government through February 8. The Senate has also passed the remaining appropriations bills or advanced them through committee. Trump has since made clear he won’t sign anything that doesn’t include border wall funding.
Trump and congressional leaders from both parties have continued discussions to overcome the stalemate. They held two meetings last week and launched a task force over the weekend to resolve the issue as well. But despite these regular meetings and efforts, the two sides have been unable to overcome the impasse thus far.
Trump has repeatedly reaffirmed his commitment to funding the border wall since the shutdown began. He held a press conference with border patrol officials to discuss the fact that border walls work.
He also stressed the importance of border wall funding during a Cabinet discussion hours before he met with congressional leaders on January 2.
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