President Donald Trump again pushed for funding for his long-promised border wall Tuesday night in a televised address that was heavy with dark immigration rhetoric but offered little in the way of concessions or new ideas to end the government shutdown.
Speaking to the nation from the Oval Office for the first time, Trump hoped to gain the upper hand in the standoff over his demand for $5.7 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He addressed the nation as the shutdown stretched through its third week, beginning when Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress and continuing after Democrats took control of the House.
In his speech, Trump referred to Americans who were killed by people in the country illegally, relying on an emotional appeal he has often used despite studies over several years finding that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States.
Democrats in Illinois' Congressional delegation rebuked Trump's speech, while some Republicans offered support for his efforts.
"Tonight, what we heard from the Oval Office was a desperate attempt by the President to gain support for his medieval border wall. It won’t work," Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin said in a statement. "Democrats support strong border security. And we can have a debate about effective border security, but we shouldn’t do it while holding the federal government hostage. Unfortunately, President Trump has decided to stop paying hundreds of thousands of federal law enforcement personnel and researchers to pressure Congress for his wall."
"Mr. President, you may have never lived paycheck to paycheck, but many workers do," he continued. "Stop picking on these federal employees."
“What began as a campaign gimmick designed to fire up white nationalist crowds, has morphed into a giant poison pill that is impacting the lives of millions of Americans," Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky said in a statement. "More than 800,000 federal employees are working without pay. Funding for food stamps, and to enforce the Violence Against Women act, is running out. And, that is only the start."
“The President has not been telling the truth. Here are the facts: The wall will not stop illegal immigration. The wall will not cost $5.7 billion dollars but rather tens of billions. The wall will interfere with hundreds of miles of private property as well as environmentally sensitive areas. The wall is a fantasy built on bad intentions. My constituents and the vast majority of Americans reject this wall and so do I," she said, adding that she would not vote for "President Trump’s misguided, racist, and wasteful wall."
“It is disappointing that President Trump chose to use his first Oval Office address to the nation to double down on his irresponsible demands for an ineffective border wall and prolong a damaging government shutdown," Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider said.
“While both sides agree we must secure our borders and ports of entry, we have real disagreements about how to best achieve that goal," Scheider said. "We can and should debate these issues, but there should be no argument on the urgency to re-open our government. The House has passed bipartisan legislation that would do just that. It is time for President Trump to do the responsible thing – stop holding our federal agencies and the livelihood of more than 800,000 Americans hostage, and end his government shutdown."
Some Republicans agreed with Trump's call, like Rep. Darin LaHood, who wrote on Twitter "It's time for Congress to act. As President Trump outlined tonight, the humanitarian crisis at the southern border needs to be addressed and it is incumbent upon Congress to come together and provide a solution to protect America and her people."
"For years, Democrats have supported increases in border security, but instead of coming to the table to work together on a solution, Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi has chosen to play political games ahead of national security to please the most extreme corners of her base. It's time to put politics aside and work together to end the partial government shutdown and provide critical border security funding."
GOP Rep. John Shimkus was among those previously supporting Trump's wall, writing on Facebook last week, "Call it a wall. Call it a fence. Call it whatever kind of physical barrier you wish. I support it now, and I supported it back when even Democrats did too."
Trump will visit the Capitol on Wednesday to meet with Senate Republicans, and has invited Democratic and Republican congressional leaders to return to the White House to meet with him later that day, as hundreds of thousands of federal workers continue to go unpaid.