In his first address to the nation from the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, President Donald Trump remarked on the “growing humanitarian and security crisis” at the southern border, which is just a smaller part of the contention between both parties and both houses of Congress on immigration reform. Although the address – followed by a Democratic rebuttal from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) – marked a few moments of semi-civility in a Washington filled with political volatility, the partial government shutdown continues into its record-setting length of 21 days tomorrow as a deal is yet to be had between Republicans and the new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.
Federal funding ran out at midnight on Friday, December 21, closing nine departments within the U.S. government.
Last night, the president cited examples of recent violent acts committed by undocumented immigrants, including an instance last month when a Stanislaus County, California, police officer was and killed by a man who was in the country illegally. He attempted to bolster his argument through other negative effects stemming from the border crisis like the ongoing opioid epidemic.
“The cost of illegal drugs exceeds $500 billion a year. Vastly more than the $5.7 billion we have requested from Congress,” the president said. He also added that the border wall would “very quickly pay for itself.”
Reiterating a notion from the days of his presidential campaign, Trump again explained the “wall will always be paid for indirectly by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico,” referring to the newly-cemented U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
“Some have suggested a barrier is immoral,” President Trump continued in his address, but asked, “then why do wealthy politicians build walls, fences, and gates around their homes?”
“They don’t build walls because they hate the people on the outside, but because they love the people on the inside. The only thing that is immoral is for the politicians to do nothing and continue to allow more innocent people to be so horribly victimized,” he said.
In the opposition party’s rebuttal, Schumer and Pelosi said the president has “chosen fear” to govern what they call the “Trump shutdown,” adding that the rhetoric from the White House “has been full of misinformation and even malice.”
Speaker Pelosi then charged President Trump to “stop holding the American people hostage…stop manufacturing a crisis,” and to “re-open the government.”
On Wednesday afternoon, President Trump reportedly “slammed the table” and stormed out of a meeting with congressional leaders at the White House after Speaker Pelosi reiterated that the U.S.-Mexico border wall will not be funded in any legislation coming from the new majority party in the House. Following Senator Schumer’s comments during the rebuttal of the Oval Office address, he repeated that Trump has thrown another “temper tantrum” during the government shutdown.
Trump’s most ardent supporters and political allies were quick to come to his defense after the prime time address and this afternoon’s meeting, reprimanding Democrats and accusing them of failing to negotiate a deal for the American people. The president also aired out his response on Twitter shortly after the meeting went south.
“Just left a meeting with Chuck and Nancy, a total waste of time. I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier? Nancy said, NO.” President Trump said.
“I said bye-bye, nothing else works!”
According to a report from Business Insider, both House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (LA-1) and Vice President Mike Pence rejected the claim that Trump acted erratic during the meeting with congressional leaders, adding that the president “came into the room and ‘passed out candy.’”
The commander in chief has shown little room to budge off of his request for $5.7 billion in funding for the proposed southern border wall. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), ready to battle a Democratic lower chamber, said that the GOP majority will not deliberate anything the president will not sign.
Regardless of having a clear strategy towards re-opening the federal government, the president said the Trump Administration and Republicans are “totally unified” and are in “solidarity.”
During an exchange with reporters outside the White House, Speaker Pelosi accosted Trump for continuing the government shutdown, which has affected at least 800,000 federal workers who risk falling behind on paychecks. She said he was “out of touch” with those whom furloughs are affecting, although Trump has stated that government workers are “telling him” to “hold out” to “get the wall built.”
“He thinks maybe they could just ask their father for more money. But they can’t,” Pelosi added.
On the opening day of the 116th Congress, Democrats introduced a package of bills that would fund eight of the currently-closed federal departments through September 30, with the Department of Homeland Security funded through February 8, contingent on a few specific immigration reforms.
Last Friday, during a White House press conference in the Rose Garden, President Trump said to reporters that he told Democratic congressional leaders that he would keep the government partially closed for “months, or even years,” or “as long as it takes” to get the funding necessary to construct his campaign promise of a southern border wall to stave off illegal immigration.
As Trump is just hours away from breaking the record for the longest ever government shutdown – set by then-President Bill Clinton, from December 16, 1995, to January 6, 1996, at 21 days – he must begin to contend with waning support for the closure as more and more Americans feel the brunt of a closed federal government.