WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump ramped up his efforts to make the case for a wall along the southern border during a primetime Oval Office address Tuesday evening.
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He declared there was a "growing humanitarian and security crisis" at the U.S.-Mexico border due to undocumented immigration, but stopped short of declaring a national emergency.
The president claimed Tuesday night that Americans are hurt by "uncontrolled illegal immigration." He says it strains public resources and drives down jobs and wages.
Democrats demanded equal air-time Tuesday night, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivering a rebuttal to the president after he concluded his remarks.
Although Pelosi said Democrats also agree that the nation needs to secure its borders, she accused Trump of "manufacturing a crisis" at border and called on him to "re-open the government."
Trump’s first Oval Office address marks his biggest effort yet to convince the public of a need for a wall. He’s mostly used Twitter and campaign rallies to communicate his argument for a barrier along the southern border, but the primetime appearance reflects an effort to reach a greater audience.
Meanwhile, Democrats are still digging in, not giving him any money to build a border structure, steel or otherwise. And they are challenging whether he has the legal authority to go around Congress and build a wall by declaring a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The wall, for which Trump is requesting $5.7 billion, remains the sticking point in a standoff with Democrats that’s kept the government partially closed for 18 days. At this point, the ongoing shutdown fight is possibly Trump’s best chance to secure funding for a wall ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
Talks have essentially broken down between the Trump White House and Democrats, with the potential for the shutdown to be the longest in U.S. history if it lasts through the weekend. Trump will meet with Senate Republicans in a closed lunch on Wednesday, and he’s invited the top eight congressional leaders for discussions at 3 p.m. at the White House.
Later this week, the president will visit the southern border.
Right now, Democrats are upping the pressure on Republicans to reopen the government. In the House, they are putting bills on the floor that would open up individual agencies, essentially forcing Republicans to vote on such things as whether the IRS should be reopened, or whether housing programs should resume.
In the Senate, Democrats are vowing to block any business on the floor until a bill to reopen the government is taken up.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.