As a partial U.S. government shutdown entered its 19th day, Democrats on Wednesday were set to test Republicans’ resolve in backing President Donald Trump’s drive to build a wall on the border with Mexico, which has sparked an impasse over agency funding.
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats, who took control of the chamber last week, plan to advance a bill to immediately reopen the Treasury Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and several other agencies that have been in partial shutdown mode since Dec. 22.
Democrats are eager to force Republicans to choose between funding the Treasury’s Internal Revenue Service – at a time when it should be gearing up to issue tax refunds to millions of Americans – and voting to keep it partially shuttered.
In a countermove, the Trump administration said on Tuesday that even without a new shot of funding, the IRS would somehow make sure those refund checks get sent.
In an interview with Fox News on Wednesday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders also said Trump was still considering a declaration of a national emergency to circumvent Congress and redirect government funds toward the wall.
The Republican president’s insistence on a massive barrier on the border has dominated the Washington debate and sparked a political blame game as both Trump and Democrats remained dug in.
In a nationally televised address on Tuesday night, Trump asked: “How much more American blood must be shed before Congress does its job?” referring to murders he said were committed by illegal immigrants.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, responding to Trump, said he and the president both wanted stronger border security but disagreed over the most effective approach.
“Most presidents have used (White House) Oval Office addresses for noble purposes. This president just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration,” Schumer said.