Echoing national Democratic Party leaders, U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan called President Donald Trump’s address from the Oval Office evidence of a “manufactured crisis,” and called on the White House to reopen the shuttered federal agencies affected by the president’s shutdown over his request for a border wall.
In his address, which was broadcast Tuesday, Trump urged congressional Democrats like Houlahan and her new colleagues from the Pennsylvania suburbs to fund his long-promised border wall. His words were heavy with dark immigration rhetoric but offered little in the way of concessions or new ideas to break the standoff that has left large swaths of the government shuttered for 19 days.
Speaking to the nation from the Oval Office for the first time, Trump argued the wall was needed to resolve a security and humanitarian "crisis," blaming illegal immigration for what he said was a scourge of drugs and violence in the U.S. and asking: "How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?"
Democrats in response accused Trump appealing to "fear, not facts" and manufacturing a border crisis for political gain.
“I am a third-generation veteran and understand that we must protect all of our borders — land, air and sea — and pass bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform, but there are more efficient and more cost-effective ways to securing our borders than by building a costly southern border wall,” Houlahan, D-6th, of Easttown, said in statement issued following the president’s address. “By holding our government hostage, the president is harming our national security, hurting the very citizens he promised to elevate, and crippling our economy.”
Earlier Tuesday, Houlahan had visited the Chester County Food bank in Uwchlan to attempt to gauge the impact that the shutdown would have on working families and the poor in the county
“This shutdown has already lasted 18 days and 800,000 federal workers are at risk of losing their paychecks,” she said, among them many county residents. “Millions more are unable to access services our government should be providing. We have already voted to reopen the government. I will continue to work to serve our district and restore a functioning American government.”
“This shutdown,” Houlahan declared, “is a manufactured crisis."
In addition, U.S. Rep. Madeline Dean, D-4th, of Montgomery County, whose district straddles the county’s northern border, issued two Twitter messages about the president’s address as it was happening, calling into question his credibility.
“Five of the president’s core claims were immediately rebutted by national news outlets, including Fox,” Dean wrote, without specifying which claims she was referring to. “The shutdown is his choice, and Democrats continue to pass legislation to open the government.
Later, she added: “This is @realDonaldTrump’s shutdown. We do have a humanitarian crisis of this president’s making. Reopen the government and let America be America — a hard working and welcoming place.”
Using the formal trappings of the White House, Trump hoped to gain the upper hand in the standoff over his demand for $5.7 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He plans a visit to the border Thursday as he continues to pitch what was a signature promise of his 2016 presidential campaign.
He addressed the nation as the shutdown stretched through its third week, with hundreds of thousands of federal workers going without pay and some congressional Republicans growing increasingly jittery about the spreading impact of the impasse.
Trump was scheduled to visit the Capitol on Wednesday to meet with Senate Republicans, and has invited Democratic and Republican congressional leaders to return to the White House to meet with him later that day.
He claimed the standoff could be resolved in "45 minutes" if Democrats would just negotiate, but previous meetings have led to no agreement.
In their own televised remarks, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer accused Trump of misrepresenting the situation on the border as they urged him to reopen closed government departments and turn loose paychecks for hundreds of thousands of workers.
Negotiations on wall funding could proceed in the meantime, they said.
Schumer said Trump "just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration."
In remarks made before the speech, Houlahan, who took office earlier this month, said she supported the idea of securing the nation’s border but disagreed with Trump’s solution.
“I have a national security heritage,” said the U.S. Air Force veteran. “I believe we should protect all of our borders and work in a bipartisan manner to pass comprehensive immigration reform that keeps our nation safe and upholds our values. However, I do not believe a border wall is the solution, and those funds could be better used elsewhere to support our national security and to help our families.
In fact, Houlahan noted, the $5 billion the White House is requesting for the border wall would nearly fund one month of food assistance programs across the country.
Houlahan also answered a question as to whether she took the president’s remarks to be credible.
She said she had “respect (for) our Commander in Chief. President Trump is the Commander in Chief and we must honor the office and take him seriously. My job as a U.S. Representative is to fight for and legislate on behalf of the residents of Chester and Berks counties, and right now that job is to get the government open again.”