Donald Trump demands border wall funds but stops short of declaring emergency
US president is scheduled to visit the Mexican border on Thursday
US President Donald Trump used a prime time television address on Tuesday to demand that Congress give him $5.7 billion (Dh21bn) to build a wall on its border with Mexico.
But Mr Trump stopped short of declaring a national emergency that would allow him to pay for the wall without Congressional approval.
For the past 19 days the US federal government has been in partial shutdown as Mr Trump faces Democratic opposition in Congress to funding his 2016 campaign promise – a wall along America’s 3,000-kilometre southern border – which he previously insisted Mexico would pay for.
Using the first live Oval Office address of his presidency, Mr Trump’s hyperbolic and inflammatory language was used an attempt to whip up support for the project.
He spoke of a crisis in which a wave of illegal immigrants and drugs washing across the US border posed a serious threat to the nation.
“How much more American blood will be shed before Congress does its job?” Mr Trump said in a speech broadcast on all major US television networks, after describing the gory details of murders he claimed were committed by illegal immigrants.
He insisted Mexico would still pay for the wall indirectly through “the great new trade deal we have made”.
The amended North American Free Trade Agreement has not been ratified by Congress and emphasises lower tariffs, rather than specific clauses for funding a border wall.
Although his nine-minute speech contained no concessions to Democrats, the president said he still hoped to secure congressional approval for his steel wall.
“Hopefully, we can rise above partisan politics to support national security,” he said.
Mr Trump claimed the situation “could be solved in a 45-minute meeting.”
After his speech, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the president had chosen fear over facts.
“We all agree that we need to secure our borders,” Ms Pelosi said. “But the women and children at the border are not a security threat, they are a humanitarian challenge.”
Mr Trump’s decision to shut down the government over the issue showed a disregard for the families of federal employees who were missing their salaries, she said.
“President Trump has chosen to hold hostage critical services for the health, safety and well-being of the American people, and withhold the paycheques of 800,000 innocent workers across the nation, many of them veterans,” Ms Pelosi said.
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer described the shutdown as irresponsible.
“American democracy doesn’t work that way,” Mr Schumer said. “We don’t govern by temper tantrum.
“No president should pound the table and demand he gets his way or else the government shuts down, hurting millions of Americans who are treated as leverage.”
Mr Trump will visit the border on Thursday.
Updated: January 9, 2019 05:51 PM