Fighting for advantage in the government shutdown battle, US President Donald Trump aims to use a prime-time address Wednesday(local time) to convince Americans he needs billions of dollars from Congress for his long-promised border wall to resolve security and humanitarian problems he contends have reached a crisis pitch. He was sure to face intense pushback from Democrats.
Trump also plans a personal visit to the Mexican border on Thursday as he tries to put pressure on newly empowered Democrats in the shutdown standoff.
His Tuesday evening remarks were to be followed by a televised rebuttal from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who strongly oppose the wall and have repeatedly called on Trump to reopen shuttered portions of the government while border negotiations continue.
Trump has been discussing the idea of declaring a national emergency to allow him to move forward with the wall without getting congressional approval for the $5.7 billion he’s requested. But the president was not expected to make that declaration Tuesday night, said two people familiar with the White House plans, although it was possible he could change course.
Such an emergency declaration would represent a dramatic escalation of the dispute and would immediately draw legal challenges. It could potentially unlock military dollars for building the wall. While Trump has previously described the situation on the border that way — including when he directed active duty troops there ahead of the midterm elections— he has never signed an official proclamation.
He will meet with Republican lawmakers at the Capitol on Wednesday.
Before the speech, Trump dispatched Vice President Mike Pence to Capitol Hill, where he urged House Republicans to “stand strong” in support and said the White House wants to negotiate, according to people familiar with the conversation.
He also told the group that Trump won’t retreat. “That pickup ain’t got reverse in it,” he said.
With his use of a formal White House speech instead of his favored Twitter blasts, Trump is embracing the ceremonial trappings of his office as he tries to exit a political quagmire of his own making. For weeks he has dug in on a signature campaign promise to his base voters, the pledge to build an impregnable “beautiful” wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. But now his self-proclaimed deal-making skills are being put to the test.
The partial government shutdown reached its 18th day, making the closure the second-longest in history. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers are going without pay, and government disruptions are hitting home with everyday Americans. But Trump has not budged on his demands for $5.7 billion in wall funding, and Democrats have not moved from their opposition, while many Republicans watch anxiously from the sidelines.