Pence calls on Democrats to accede to demand for wall money, end shutdown
WASHINGTON - Vice President Mike Pence argued Tuesday that the United States is facing an "undeniable crisis" at its southern border and urged Democrats to negotiate an end to the impasse over President Donald Trump's demand for border wall funding that has led to a partial government shutdown.
Pence appeared on three network morning shows, offering a preview of a prime-time address from the Oval Office planned by Trump on Tuesday night in a bid to gain leverage, with the shutdown now in its third week.
Pence did not rule out the possibility that Trump would declare a national emergency that could empower him to construct a border wall without congressional approval. But the vice president said repeatedly that the administration is seeking a negotiated solution with Congress.
"What I expect the president will do tonight is explain to the American people that we have a humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border," Pence said on NBC's "Today" show. "He'll explain the need, not just to build a wall, which he's determined to do, but also to provide our Border Patrol with additional resources, humanitarian and medical assistance, new technology. But the Democrats need to come to the table and start negotiating."
Democrats have steadfastly resisted Trump's demand for $5.7 billion for wall funding, an impasse that has resulted in the shuttering of agencies that account for about a quarter of the federal workforce.
Negotiations over the weekend, led by Pence, resulted in limited progress, according to Democrats and Republicans alike.
"You know that we could resolve this in a matter of hours if the Democrats would come to the table and start negotiating in good faith," Pence said on CBS's "This Morning." He added that Trump would use his Oval Office address to "take his case directly to the American people."
During a separate appearance on "Good Morning America," Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., pinned blame on Trump for the partial shutdown, saying he had rejected a funding bill with bipartisan support, resulting in "an emergency of his own creation."
"The president is holding it up because of his vanity project, which is this wall, at taxpayers' expense and at the expense of hundreds of thousands of workers who are working every day without being paid," she said.
Democrats have asked networks for rebuttal time on Tuesday night, expressing concerns that the president will try to make a case based on falsehoods. In a tweet Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelsoi, D-Calif., said that Trump's address would likely be "full of malice and misinformation" and that "Democrats must immediately be given equal airtime."
During the television interviews, Pence was pressed about several false or questionable claims Trump has made in advocating for a border wall, including that former presidents have told him they wanted to build a wall and that former President Barack Obama has a 10-foot wall around his entire house in Washington. All four living ex-presidents have denied making such a comment, and there is no 10-foot wall around Obama's house.
Experts have also said Trump and other administration officials have significantly overstated the security threat posed by terrorists attempting to cross the southern border.
Asked by ABC's Jonathan Karl about why Trump should be trusted, Pence sought to tamp down concerns.
"The American people aren't as concerned about the political debate as they are concerned about what's really happening at the border," Pence said during an appearance on "Good Morning America."
He added that Trump's "passion" on the issue of border security "comes from this president's deep desire to do his job to protect the American people."