WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will deliver a primetime address on border security Tuesday night and travel to the U.S.-Mexico border on Thursday as part of his latest push to persuade Congress to approve $5.7 billion in wall funding as the partial government shutdown stretches into its third week over an impasse on border security funding.
“I am pleased to inform you that I will Address the Nation on the Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border. Tuesday night at 9:00 P.M. Eastern,” Trump tweeted on Monday afternoon.
CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, Fox News and Fox Business Network all confirmed Monday that they would carry the speech, Trump’s first Oval Office address since taking office.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in a tweet announced Trump’s trip to the border, saying he planned “to meet with those on the front line of the national security and humanitarian crisis.”
Sanders has not yet said which border state the president will visit, but a Federal Aviation Administration advisory posted on Monday — usually an indicator of the president’s upcoming Air Force One travels — announced travel restrictions for Thursday “in the vicinity” of McAllen, Texas.
The national address and trip comes as the president and congressional leaders remain deadlocked over a spending agreement to reopen nine federal agencies and restore pay for some 800,000 federal workers currently furloughed or working without pay.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a joint statement issued Monday night, called on the networks to provide Democrats airtime to respond to Trump’s speech, saying “if his past statements are any indication” the speech “will be full of malice and misinformation.”
Sanders and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen have come under scrutiny for implying in recent statements that thousands of suspected terrorists have been stopped at the southwest border, when the State Department has said none have been captured trying to enter the country illegally from Mexico.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), speaking to reporters following a tour of a Border Patrol facility in Alamagordo, New Mexico, also said he was concerned the president would mislead the public in his speech.
“I expect the president to lie to the American people,” Nadler said. “Why do I expect this? Because he has been lying to the American people.”
The president has been pressing lawmakers to approve $5.7 billion in taxpayer funding for the construction of a barrier along the U.S. southern border, but congressional Democrats, who now hold control over the U.S. House of Representatives, have repeatedly said they will not approve a deal that pays for the construction of a wall, arguing it’s an “ineffective” and “immoral” method to curb illegal border crossings. Democrats instead have offered $1.3 billion in border security funding for drones, fencing and other surveillance technology.
Negotiations between Trump administration officials and congressional leaders over the weekend failed to produce a compromise to end the shutdown that went into effect on Dec. 22. Vice President Mike Pence, speaking to reporters on Monday, said that he planned to resume talks with congressional leaders on Tuesday and that Trump planned to invite lawmakers back to the White House this week for another round of discussions.
Acting White House Budget Director Russell Vought issued a letter to congressional leaders on Sunday broadly describing how the administration planned to use the $5.7 billion in funding.
Vought said the administration would use the funds to construct “234 miles of new physical barrier,” and requested “an additional $800 million to address urgent humanitarian needs,” including a surge of unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the border.
Pelosi and Schumer, in their joint statement, called on Trump to sign off on a series of measures first approved with bipartisan support in the Senate in December and by House Democrats in January that would immediately open the government and fund the agencies at their existing levels.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will not schedule a vote for any spending measure not first endorsed by Trump, but with no immediate resolution to the shutdown in sight, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), widely regarded as a moderate voice in the chamber, urged McConnell to schedule a vote on measures to immediately reopen the government.
“This isn’t a matter of one side or the other caving in. It’s a matter of getting to a compromise,” Collins said during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “That’s a sign of strength. And it’s important that we remember that real lives are being affected here. The 800,000 federal employees, dedicated public servants who won’t get a paycheck next Friday if this isn’t resolved very soon.”
Long Island lawmakers Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) and Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) also called for swift action to end the shutdown in an unrelated news conference in Farmingdale on Monday.
Suozzi said it’s “patently unfair” for Trump to hold federal workers “hostage” to obtain the money to build a border wall.
“People are really suffering,” Suozzi said. “You don’t always realize it because maybe you’re not dealing with a particular federal agency right now. But right now people are not able to pay their rent ... or pay their mortgage payments or pay their utility bills.”
King echoed Suozzi’s concerns, arguing that Trump should offer protection for undocumented Dreamers and for foreigners in the Temporary Protected Status program in exchange for funding to build a wall on the southern border.
“I don’t think it’s right to be holding federal employees hostage over this,” King said. “I was against the shutdown, but I do believe there should be a barrier at the border. That can be negotiated.”
-- With Robert Brodsky