U.S. President Donald Trump is delivering a primetime TV address Tuesday night, during which he is expected to persuade Americans that there is a national security crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border that necessitates the erection of a physical barrier.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday they will jointly deliver the Democrats' counterargument against Trump's national address.
The Democratic leaders will make their case from the speaker's balcony at the Capitol after Trump' s 9 p.m. ET (0200 GMT) speech. Their rebuttal, too, will be aired by TV networks nationwide.
"Now that the television networks have decided to air the President's address, which if his past statements are any indication will be full of malice and misinformation, Democrats must immediately be given equal airtime," read a statement issued by the pair.
Pelosi and Schumer have been leading the Democrats in the fight against Trump' s demand for more than 5 billion U.S. dollars to construct what the president most recently referred to as a "steel barrier," switching from the concrete wall that he previously insisted on.
The issue has forced a partial shutdown of the federal government which now stretches into the 18th day. Staunchly opposing Trump' s request, Democrats passed their version of spending bills in the House and repeatedly urged the reopening of the government. Trump showed no willingness to bend.
The president has since Friday been floating the idea of invoking a national emergency that will let him tap into the Department of Defense money instead of waiting for congressional appropriations. He said he "absolutely" can call an emergency and build the barrier "very quickly."
A declaration of emergency is within the president's executive authority and will enable him to utilize specialized funds without approval from the Congress, but the Democrats and legal experts said Trump may face immediate court challenges should he adopt this method as a way to acquire the wall funding money.
In an interview with ABC News aired Tuesday morning, Vice President Mike Pence cited a Washington Post report as saying the situation on the southern border has become "a bona fide emergency."
"It simply is overwhelming the ability of our border patrol and customs agents to be able to address it," he added, urging the need for "new resources," a border wall, as well as "the Congress to come to the table and work with this president to address this crisis once and for all."
Jonathan Karl, ABC News' chief White House correspondent who was interviewing the vice president, challenged Pence by asking how President Trump's words on border situation can be trusted "when he has said so many things that are just not true about this crisis." The reporter provided a slew of "falsehoods" that the president have made recently over the debate.
"Look, the American people aren't as concerned about the political debate as they are about what's really happening at the border," Pence responded.
The vice president did not say whether Trump would indeed make a declaration of emergency. He told reporters Monday that Trump has "made no decision on that" but is "considering" the option, and that officials at the White House counsel's office "are looking at" the legal process such a declaration will involve.
The White House announced that Trump will visit the southern border on Thursday, without disclosing further details. The Federal Aviation Administration has issued an alert for "VIP movement" near McAllen, the U.S. state of Texas, for Thursday.