President Donald Trump urged Congress in a televised speech on Tuesday to give him $5.7 billion this year to help build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico but stopped short of declaring a national emergency to pay for the barrier with military funds.
Facing Democratic opposition in Congress to a wall that he promised to build as a presidential candidate, Trump said in his first prime-time address from the Oval Office that there was a growing security and humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Using blunt language in an attempt to win public support, the Republican president said illegal immigrants and drugs flowing across the southern border posed a serious threat to American safety.
“How much more American blood must be shed before Congress does its job?” he said, recounting gruesome details of murders he said were committed by illegal immigrants.
But after days of hinting he might use presidential powers to declare an emergency as a first step toward directing money for the wall without congressional approval, Trump said he would continue seeking a solution to the impasse with Congress.
Trump’s speech came 18 days into a partial government shutdown precipitated by his demand for the wall. Public opposition to the shutdown is growing and that could hurt Trump, as he said last month he would be proud to close the government to fight for the wall.
Democratic leaders, in a rebuttal also carried live on national television, accused the president on Tuesday night of using fear tactics and spreading misinformation about the situation along the border.
“The president has chosen fear. We want to start with the facts,” said Nancy Pelosi, Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives.
“The fact is, President Trump has chosen to hold hostage critical services for the health, safety and well-being of the American people and withhold the paychecks of 800,000 innocent workers across the nation, many of them veterans,” she said.