WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump made a televised plea for border wall funding Tuesday night, seeking an edge in the shutdown battle with congressional Democrats as he declared there is “a humanitarian crisis, a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul.”
Addressing the nation from the Oval Office for the first time, Trump argued for funding on security and humanitarian grounds as he sought to put pressure on newly empowered Democrats amid an extended partial government shutdown.
Watch Trump’s address and House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s responses in the video player above.
Speaking from behind the Resolute Desk, Trump said the US could no longer accommodate immigrants who enter the country illegally.
“We are out of space to hold them and we have no way to promptly return them back home to their country,” Trump said.
And he castigated politicians who have deemed his proposed wall “immoral,” painting them as hypocrites.
“The only thing that is immoral is the politicians to do nothing and to continue to allow more innocent people to be so horribly victimized,” he said.
Pelosi said the president has “chosen fear” in making the case to the American people for the border wall and Democrats “want to start with the facts.”
The House speaker said Tuesday night in a rebuttal to President Donald Trump’s Oval Office address that “we all agree that we need to secure our borders.”
She noted that the House passed legislation to reopen government on the first day of the new Congress. But Trump rejects that legislation because it doesn’t have funding for his border wall.
She says: “The fact is: President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis, and must reopen the government.”
“Separate the shutdown from the arguments over border security,” Schumer said. “There is bipartisan legislation — supported by Democrats and Republicans — to reopen government while allowing debate over border security to continue.”
“Democrats and the President both want stronger border security,” he added. “However, we sharply disagree with the President about the most effective way to do it.”
But expecting Trump to veto them, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not brought the House bills up for a vote.
On Tuesday, the Kentucky Republican said on the Senate floor that the whole fight is over “one-tenth of one percent of federal spending” and pointed to a vote in 2006 in which Democrats supported building physical barriers at the border. “This is no newfound, principled objection,” McConnell said. “It’s just political spite.”
Yet as the shutdown has dragged on, some Republican senators have split from their party’s strategy and announced support for funding the government without money allocated to build the wall. The majority of the public has opposed the wall and blamed Republicans for the shutdown, according to polls.
It’s unclear how the spending fight will get resolved.
Trump has been discussing the idea of declaring a national emergency to allow him to circumvent Congress and move forward with the wall. But he made no mention of such a declaration Tuesday night.
Democrats have vowed to block funding for a wall, which they say would be immoral and ineffective, and have called on Trump to reopen shuttered portions of the government while border negotiations continue.