President Donald Trump’s immigration speech Tuesday, broadcast nationwide, didn’t do much to sway Vermont’s Congressional delegation.
In the speech, Trump made his case for funding a wall along the southern border. He made his remarks on the 18th day of a partial government shutdown, which began when Trump opted not to sign a spending bill approved by Congress that didn’t include money for a border wall.
“Tonight, I am speaking to you because there is a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border,” Trump said, according to the text of his speech posted by Politico. “Every day customs and border patrol agents encounter thousands of illegal immigrants trying to enter our country. We are out of space to hold them, and we have no way to promptly return them back home to their country.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy said Tuesday the speech was “fact-free” and filled with misinformation.
“President Trump has spent years as the host of a reality TV show, but unfortunately, reality has never been his strong suit,” Leahy said. “Even before the Trump Shutdown, the president resorted to misinformation and stoking fear among the American people in order to justify a wasteful monument to himself. His prime-time address was simply fact-free fearmongering and data-distorting demagoguery.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who is considering another run for the White House in 2020, streamed his remarks online via his website.
“President Trump has stated tonight, and over and over again in recent weeks, that this country faces a national emergency. Well, he’s right. But it’s an emergency and a crisis that he himself has created,” Sanders said. “As we speak, some 800,000 federal employees, people who are our neighbors, friends and family members, are going without pay. As working people, many of them are wondering how they will pay their mortgages, how they will feed their kids, and how they’ll be able to go to the doctor. These are people in the FBI, in the TSA, in the State Department, in the Treasury Department and other agencies who have, in some cases, worked for the government for years.”
House Rep. Peter Welch made a brief comment on Twitter regarding the speech.
“The President offered nothing tonight that will end his shutdown,” Welch said. “It’s time to open government, pay federal employees and resume services for the American people.”
Trump claimed in his speech that the proposed wall would pay for itself, saying the costs associated with the illegal drug trade far exceed the price of the wall.
“This barrier is absolutely critical to border security. It’s also what our professionals at the border want and need,” Trump said. “This is just common sense.”
In his statements, Sanders said Congress has put forward bills that would reopen the government.
“President Trump tonight has told us why he believes we need the wall. It gives me no pleasure to tell you what most of you already know,” Sanders said. “President Trump lies all of the time — and in his remarks tonight, and in recent weeks regarding immigration and the wall, he continues to lie.”
Sanders said Trump has lied about the number of terrorists crossing the southern border.
“According to a State Department report released in September, ‘At year’s end there was no credible evidence indicating that international terrorist groups have … sent operatives via Mexico into the United States,’” Sanders said. “That is not Bernie Sanders’ opinion. That is a direct quote from Trump’s own State Department.”
Trump’s speech Tuesday focused mainly on concerns about criminals crossing the border, drug smugglers, gang members and human traffickers.
Trump blamed Democrats for the shutdown.
“The federal government remains shut down for one reason and one reason only — because Democrats will not fund border security,” Trump said. “My administration is doing everything in our power to help those impacted by the situation. But the only solution is for Democrats to pass a spending bill that defends our borders and reopens the government.”
Sanders said Trump is to blame for the shutdown, citing previous remarks made by the president.
“In terms of this shutdown, President Trump has made it very clear who is responsible. As you will all recall in a very public meeting he held in the Oval Office, he said, and I quote, ‘I am proud to shut down the government ... I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you (Chuck Schumer) for it.’”
On Wednesday, Democrats in the Senate announced two bills they say would end the shutdown.
“These bills are the product of months of bipartisan work,” said Leahy, in a separate statement on Wednesday. “Congress was doing its job until President Trump ground our progress to a halt over his ever-changing demands for a border wall, which he promised Mexico would pay for. It is time to end this nonsense and for Leader McConnell to bring these Republican bills to the floor so we can do our job, reopen the government and end the Trump Shutdown.”
Leahy is vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.