Tue. Jan 22nd, 2019

Trump to make case for wall in TV address; Democrats to respond

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US President Donald Trump will make his case for a wall on the border with Mexico in a televised address on Tuesday. 

The address, scheduled for 9:00pm (02:00GMT), comes on the 18th day of a partial government shutdown centred on Trump’s demand for more than $5bn in wall funding, a request Democrats vehemently oppose. A rebuttal by top Democrats, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, will follow the address. 

Vice President Mike Pence said Trump will tell Americans there is “a humanitarian and security crisis” at the border. 

“We believe we can solve this through the legislative process,” Pence told CBS on Tuesday. 

Despite several attempts at talks, Trump, his fellow Republicans and Democrats have so far failed to come to a deal on the funding.  

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The partial shutdown, which began December 22, affects some 800,000 federal workers in nine departments and several agencies. Employees have either been furloughed or required to work without pay.

The shutdown has also strained the immigration system, worsening backlogs in courts and complicating hiring for employers. 

Growing proportion of Americans blame Trump: poll

Trump’s remarks on Tuesday evening will also aim to shore up support among Republicans, who are wary of potential backlash from the public as the shutdown drags on. Pence was scheduled to meet Republicans before Trump’s speech. 

A Reuters/Ipsos poll, released on Tuesday, found that a growing proportion of Americans blame Trump for the shutdown, though Republicans mostly support his refusal to approve a budget without taxpayer dollars for the US-Mexico border. 

The national opinion poll, which ran from January 1 to January 7, found that 51 percent of adults believe Trump “deserves most of the blame” for the shutdown. That is up four percentage points from a similar poll that ran from December 21 to 25.

Another 32 percent blame congressional Democrats for the shutdown and seven percent blame congressional Republicans, according to the poll. Those percentages are mostly unchanged from the previous poll.

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Trump has warned the shutdown could last a “long time”, and said he could declare a national emergency to bypass Congress to build the wall. If he followed through with the threat, it would likely be challenged in the courts. 

When asked about the chance of Trump using his speech to declare a national emergency, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway told reporters, “He is not talking about that at all. He is not giving a likelihood. He is not saying yes or no.”

‘Stop holding federal workers hostage’

Democrats blame Trump for the shutdown. They view the border wall as expensive and ineffective, and instead support other security measures. 

Hours after Democrats took control of the House on January 3, Democrats passed a two-bill spending package aimed at immediately re-opening the government. This includes $1.3bn for border fencing and $300m for other border security items such as technology and cameras. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has so far this year refused to bring any legislation Trump won’t sign to a vote. 

McConnell faces increasing pressure from within his caucus, especially from vulnerable Republicans up for re-election in 2020, as several conservative senators urged action to reopen the government, according to US media. 

Several Democratic members of Congress took to Twitter to slam Trump for positioning the shutdown as a “humanitarian crisis” issue. 

New House Democrat Ilhan Omar tweeted, “A wall wont solve the ‘humanitarian crisis’. A wall won’t pay the bills of 800,000 fed employees. A wall won’t fix our broken immigration system. Show leadership and pass the bill Dems sent to reopen the government. Stop holding gov employees hostage for a xenophobic wall!”

Her colleague, Pramila Jayapal, who has been an outspoken critic of Trump’s zero-tolerance police towards immigration, blame Trump for creating any crisis by “instituting #FamilySeparation, ‘turn-backs’ & shutting down asylum seekers.’ 

She added, “Reverse those policies…crisis fixed! Meanwhile, 800K workers suffer b/c of ‘vanity wall.’ #TrumpShutdown.”

There have been 21 government shutdowns in the US since 1976. The ongoing funding gap is tied with the second-longest on record. 

Trump to make case for wall in TV address; Democrats to respond

SHUTDOWN FAST FACTS Started on December 22 Now tied for the second-longest on record in the US More than 800,000 federal workers affected in nine departments, as well as several agencies Trump demands $5.6bn in wall funding – a demand Democrats oppose US President Donald Trump will make his case for a wall on the border with Mexico in a televised address on Tuesday.

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