As the partial government shutdown heads into its 18th day with no sign of a breakthrough to end the impasse, President Trump is looking to make his case directly to the American public — and not through Twitter. Trump announced he’ll give an address to the nation in prime time on Tuesday evening, and the White House said he’ll visit the southern border on Thursday. Combined, the two announcements signal that Trump is ramping up his public relations efforts, seeking to put pressure on Democrats after bipartisan talks over the weekend yielded no significant progress.
Here’s the latest:
- Trump has offered to build the border barrier with steel rather than concrete, a move the president and the White House have framed as a concession to Democrats who object to a wall. “They don’t like concrete, so we’ll give them steel,” Trump said Sunday. Democrats, for the most part, don’t see that as much of a carrot. The White House isn’t budging on Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion in funding, though it has also proposed “an additional $800 million to address urgent humanitarian needs.”’
- The president on Sunday also repeated his threat to secure funding for the border barrier by declaring a national emergency and bypassing Congress’s budgetary power. Such a move would quickly result in a court battle.
- Democrats aren’t budging either, and they’ve reportedly complained that the White House hasn’t made clear why it is seeking billions more than the administration had asked for months earlier or explained how the money would be used.
- On the House side, Democrats plan to vote on four separate appropriations bills not directly tied to the border fight, including legislation to fund the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service — with the expectation that such votes will turn up the heat on Republicans. The White House said Monday that the IRS would pay tax refunds over the coming weeks, reversing past agency policy on the issue. (See more on this below.)
- Senate Democrats, meanwhile, are increasingly coming together in support of a hardball strategy suggested by Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland to block all legislation until Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agrees to bring up a House-passed package to reopen the government.
The bottom line: We’re still seeing more posturing than progress, and there’s no indication that the shutdown will end anytime soon. The White House decision that the IRS can issue tax refunds lessens the impact of the shutdown — and reduces the urgency to reach a deal.