Donald Trump summoned the nation’s attention to the Oval Office for a prime time pronouncement on the border wall standoff at the centre of the government shutdown. Then, he offered nothing new.
Instead, Trump used the president’s most symbolic and powerful perch — traditionally reserved for times of war or calls for national unity — to rattle off familiar statistics, renew complaints about Democratic criticism of his plan to build a wall on the Mexican border and reprise ominous anecdotes of brutal crimes committed by people he said were in the
“Day after day, precious lives are cut short by those who have violated our borders,” Trump said. “How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?”
The address offered little hope of a breakthrough in
negotiations over the shutdown, leaving the argument about where it was before Trump began talking. The impasse doesn’t look likely to end soon. And that may start impacting the US credit rating.
Fitch Ratings Ltd warned of a possible cut to the US triple-A sovereign credit rating later this year, Reuters reported, citing a comment by Fitch’s global head of sovereign ratings James McCormack. McCormack warned that if the shutdown continues to March 1 and subsequently interferes with efforts to raise the debt ceiling, Fitch may need to consider whether the policy framework and the inability to pass a spending bill are consistent with a triple-A rating.
Trump’s remarks made Democrats’ evening easier. In a brief response to the president, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer also offered no new solution to the impasse — though it was Trump, not his opponents, who asked for television time.
Pelosi and Schumer reiterated their position: sign legislation to end the shutdown, then negotiate over border security.
“The president is rejecting these bipartisan bills, which would reopen government, over his obsession with forcing American taxpayers to waste billions of dollars on an expensive and ineffective wall, a wall he always promised Mexico would pay for,” Pelosi said.
The president’s address was the latest in a series of public appearances — including a cabinet meeting, a statement in the White House briefing room at which he was flanked by border patrol officers, and a news conference last week — in which Trump simply reiterated his demands without offering any concessions. Wielding the bully pulpit, Trump has done nothing since shutting down much of the government Dec. 22 to advance his argument or resolve the dispute.
He also has failed to persuade most Americans that he’s right. Fifty-one percent of adults surveyed January 1-7 said Trump “deserves most of the blame” for the shutdown, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll. That’s up four points from a similar poll conducted Dec. 21-25.
The two sides were scheduled to return to the bargaining table on Wednesday.