President Trump on Tuesday delivered a measured, scripted 9-minute primetime national address on what he deemed a growing “humanitarian crisis” at the southern border, but fell short of fulfilling recent threats to declare a national emergency to pay for border security.
“This is a humanitarian crisis — a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul,” Trump said from the Oval Office. “The federal government remains shut down for one reason and one reason only: because Democrats will not fund border security. My administration is doing everything in our power to help those impacted by the situation. But the only solution is for Democrats to pass a spending bill that defends our borders and reopens the government.”
Trump also said that House and Senate Democrats could solve the crisis in a 45-minute meeting at the White House, blamed them for the ongoing government shutdown and called for his $5.7 billion funding request for a border wall and congressional action to close catch-and-release loopholes in the U.S. immigration system. The president said that Mexico would “indirectly” pay for wall construction — an assertion disputed by many lawmakers that Trump called “common sense” — and is no longer insisting on a concrete wall in favor of a steel bollard fence.
“The cost of illegal drugs exceeds $500 billion a year — vastly more than the $5.7 billion we have requested from Congress,” Trump said. “The wall will also be paid for, indirectly, by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico.”
Solving the Shutdown Puzzle
Passing the 18th day of the shutdown, can Trump and Congress end the stalemate and pass a DHS appropriations bill or a continuing resolution to fund the government by agreeing on border security measures?
Both sides appeared dead-set against caving as the president prepares to visit the border on Thursday. More than 800,000 federal employees are affected by the shutdown as Democratic leaders continue to talk with a White House negotiating team led by Vice President Pence.
According to a letter submitted to the House Appropriations Committee on Jan. 6, and obtained by Politico, the Trump administration is asking that Congress approve:
- $5.7 billion to construct a steel barrier along 234 miles of the border, an increase from the $1.3 billion approved by the Senate in the 115th Congress for border security including fence improvements.
- $211 million to hire 750 additional Border Patrol agents, an increase of $100 million over the Senate bill.
- $4.2 billion for detention beds for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an increase of $798 million from the Senate-approved bill.
- $675 million for non-intrusive inspection technology on inbound lanes at southwest border land ports of entry, an increase of $631 million over the Senate bill.
- $800 million to address urgent humanitarian needs.
The Democrats Respond
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) delivered a five-minute response from the U.S. Capitol, saying the shutdown, which began at midnight on Dec. 22, is Trump’s fault and that the parties should pass a continuing resolution to fund the government while the border dispute is separately settled.
“Sadly, much of what we heard from President Trump throughout this senseless shutdown has been full of misinformation and even malice. The president has chosen fear… He [Trump] promised to keep the government shut down for months or years, no matter who it hurts. That’s just plain wrong,” Pelosi said. “The fact is on the very first day of this Congress, House Democrats passed Senate Republican legislation to reopen government and fund smart, effective border security solutions. But the president is rejecting these bipartisan bills, which would reopen government over his obsession with forcing American taxpayers to waste billions of dollars on an expensive an ineffective wall, a wall he always promised Mexico would pay for.”
Pelosi said that Trump is holding critical government services hostage and manufacturing a crisis. She also said that while Congress can pass legislation to fund technology and infrastructure improvements at ports of entry for Department of Homeland Security personnel, migrant women and children crossing the border are not a security threat but a “humanitarian challenge” exacerbated by Trump’s border policies.
This week, the House Appropriations Committee released four appropriations bills that would fund the departments of the Interior, Treasury, Agriculture and Internal Revenue Service — a piecemeal attempt to soften the blow of the shutdown and resume some operations.
Schumer said that there is no excuse to hurt millions of Americans over a policy difference, and asserted that Trump used the Oval Office as a backdrop to “manufacture a crisis, stoke fear and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration.”
“We don’t govern by temper tantrum. 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,” Schumer said. “So, our solution is a simple one: Mr President, reopen the government and we can work to resolve our differences over border security, but end this shutdown now.”
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) January 9, 2019
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