WASHINGTON • President Donald Trump was set yesterday to make his case to Americans that a "crisis" at the US border with Mexico requires a wall.
Mr Trump's remarks, scheduled for a prime-time address at 9pm, would aim at building support for a campaign promise that has sparked an 18-day government shutdown. It would be his latest attempt to convince Democrats, not to mention furloughed government workers, to support his push for a steel barrier on the US southern border that he says is needed to curb the flow of drugs and illegal immigration.
All major US television networks agreed to air Mr Trump's speech, prompting Democrats, who say a wall would be expensive, inefficient and immoral, to seek equal time.
"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," said a joint statement issued by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.
Vice-President Mike Pence said on Monday that administration officials and congressional staff discussed the border "crisis" in meetings, over the weekend, about how to break an impasse over funding and reopen the government.
"We made progress in establishing the fact that we do have a humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border. The President will address that as he speaks to the nation," Mr Pence told reporters.
The emphasis on a crisis comes as Mr Trump is considering declaring a national emergency in an effort to bypass Congress and build the wall without its approval.
Democrats, who control the US House of Representatives, have rejected Mr Trump's demand for US$5.7 billion (S$7.8 billion) to help build such a wall.
Talks to fund the government have broken down over that point, leaving several government agencies shuttered and some 800,000 government workers furloughed or working without pay.
Mr Trump had promised a wall when he was running for the White House in 2016, making it one of his signature campaign issues, and saying Mexico would pay for it.
The President will continue pressing his case with a trip to the US southern border tomorrow.