By Jordan Fabian
President Trump on Tuesday argued the U.S. is facing a “growing humanitarian and security crisis” at the southern border in a primetime address designed to seize leverage over Democrats in a prolonged shutdown battle over his demand for a border wall.
In his first address to the nation from the Oval Office, Trump pressured Democrats to grant his request for $5.7 billion in wall funding by accusing the party of ignoring what he claims is an influx of drugs and criminals that can only be stopped with a wall.
“This barrier is absolutely critical to border security,” Trump said, calling it “a choice between right and wrong, between justice and injustice.” The president implored Democrats to return to the White House on Wednesday to resume negotiations, saying “the only thing that’s immoral is politicians who do nothing.”
But it appears unlikely that Trump’s nine-minute address, which made no new offers, will do much to break the impasse as the partial shutdown stretches closer to a fourth week.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) rejected Trump’s argument that a crisis exists along the border and said the president is solely to blame for the shutdown.
“We don’t govern by temper tantrum,” Schumer said during a televised rebuttal from the Capitol. “No president should pound the table and demand he gets his way or else the government shuts down, hurting millions of Americans who are treated as leverage.”
Pelosi repeated her stance that she will only negotiate with Trump over border security if he decided to fund shuttered government agencies that have been closed since Dec. 22.
“President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis, and must reopen the government,” she said.
Trump has been considering the possibility of declaring a national emergency that would allow him to circumvent Congress to build the wall. But he made no mention of those deliberations in his address, even though some anticipated he might.
Instead, the heated and urgent language he used to describe the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border could be used to lay the groundwork for an eventual declaration, if it is made.
“This is a humanitarian crisis — a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul,” he said.
By Jordan Fabian