Donald Trump delivered his first prime-time address from the Oval Office Tuesday evening, speaking directly to the American people about the need to for a planned border wall with Mexico. The speech came mere hours after Senate Democrats prevented the chamber from considering bipartisan legislation in an attempt to pressure GOP lawmakers to reopen the government.
In a speech that lasted roughly eight minutes, President Trump made one of his strongest cases yet for increased border protection, including the need to prevent illegal drugs, gang members and criminals from entering America unlawfully. Trump called the situation on the southern border as a “humanitarian crisis – a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul.”
Although the address wasn’t too dissimilar from his previous arguments in favor of a border wall, it came at a critical time for Congress and the nation as a whole. That’s because the federal government has been partially shut down for over two weeks. Trump has promised to keep it partially closed until Congress approves nearly $6 billion in funding for a wall along the southern border. Until now, Democrats have refused to budge on the border wall, which has blocked the formation of a new budget and put government services on hold.
The president is planning to visit the southern border later this week, according to White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.
According to the latest Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll , 51% of Americans believe Trump “deserves most of the blame” for the government shutdown. That’s up 4 percentage points from a week earlier.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has called on Congress to end the government shutdown to prevent the pain from spreading beyond federal payrolls. With federal employees set to miss their first full paycheck on Friday, a prolonged shutdown could soon impact American businesses.
“The shutdown is harming the American people, the business community, and the economy,” Chamber executive vice president Neil Bradley told Congress in a letter, according to CNN . “The adverse consequences of the shutdown are wide and growing.”
Federal spending accounts for roughly one-fifth of gross domestic product (GDP), which means that a prolonged disruption could undermine economic growth – one of Trump’s core mandates.
On Monday, the Trump administration agreed to let the IRS pay out tax refunds if the government shutdown extends into filing season. The decision is intended to lessen the burden on American households by allowing hundreds of billions of dollars to flow to taxpayers.
The U.S. economy outperformed in the first six months of 2018 thanks to a combination of tax cuts and softer regulations. These efforts helped push GDP growth north of 3% and unemployment toward 50-year lows. While growth slowed in the latter half of the year, job creation and wages remained elevated. Employers added 312,000 workers in December as average hourly earnings rose 3.2% annually, the fastest since 2009.
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