Trump to press border wall fight in State of the Union speech
U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday is set to deliver a State of the Union speech challenging Democrats to approve funding for his long-sought border wall, but stopping short of declaring a national emergency over it, at least for now.
At 9 p.m. (0200 GMT Wednesday) before a joint session of Congress, Trump will likely stir contention with remarks on immigration policy, after his demand for 5.7 billion U.S. dollars in wall funds triggered a historic 35-day partial government shutdown that more than half of Americans blamed him for, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling.
Millions of Americans are expected to be watching the address on television, giving Trump his biggest opportunity to date to explain why he believes a barrier is needed on the U.S. southern border with Mexico. The speech was delayed for a week because of the shutdown that ended on January 25.
When he takes center stage in the chamber of the House of Representatives for the big speech, sitting behind him over his shoulder will be his main congressional adversary, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who became House speaker after her party won control of the chamber in November's elections.
She has shown no sign of budging from her opposition to Trump's wall-funding demand. That has led Trump to contemplate declaring a national emergency, which he says would let him reallocate funding from elsewhere without congressional action.
But a source close to Trump said the president was not expected to take that step, which would likely draw a swift court challenge from Democrats. Instead he will urge a congressional committee to do a border security deal by February 15.
“He's going to set the stage,” the source said. “He'll tell people: ‘Here's why I should,' but say: ‘I'm giving Congress another chance to act.'”
Trump's speech will also offer an olive branch to opponents as he looks toward the 2020 election, targeting areas he sees for potential bipartisan agreement, such as infrastructure improvements, lowering prescription drug costs and healthcare.
A senior administration official said Trump would “encourage Congress to reject the politics of resistance and retribution, and instead adopt a spirit of cooperation and compromise so we can achieve it.”
But that message could be undermined with Trump threatening to go his own way on the wall if he cannot get Congress to approve the funding he wants. On Sunday, Trump tweeted: “If there is no Wall, there is no Security.” He has said the wall, which he promised in his 2016 campaign, is needed to deter illegal immigration and drugs.
Some Republicans are urging Trump not to declare an emergency. “I'm for whatever works that prevents the level of dysfunction we've seen on full display here the last month, and also doesn't bring about a view on the president's part that he needs to declare a national emergency,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters last week.