President Donald Trump made a televised appearance on Tuesday night from the Oval Office as the second-longest ever government shutdown dragged on. Democrats countered by asking for an end to the shutdown through further negotiations.
Trump’s proposed $5.7 billion steel wall to fence the nearly 2,000-mile southern border is facing staunch opposition from House Democrats. The dueling speeches did nothing to change that.
Given that the negotiations over resolving the shutdown have seen little progress, the U.S. is on track for the longest shutdown in history.
Trump’s shutdown speech comes on day 19
Until a resolution, the shutdown will continue and the pain could intensify — affecting not just federal workers, but ordinary Americans as well.
At present, around 380,000 federal employees are on leave and 450,000 more are working without pay. While federal employees in Washington D.C. and Maryland are particularly at risk given their proximity to the seat of the government, states with big military bases like Alaska and Hawaii are also likely to feel the pain as the shutdown drags on.
If the shutdown continues into February, it could also affect millions of Americans living below the poverty line and dependent on the U.S. Department of Agriculture for food stamps.
The longest shutdown in American history happened in December 1995 and lasted 21 days, when former President Bill Clinton clashed with the then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich over domestic spending cuts.
Declaring a national emergency
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence did not rule out that Trump could declare a national emergency at some point in an attempt to bypass Democratic opposition.
“We can call a national emergency because of the security of our country,” Trump told reporters on Friday. “We can do it. I haven’t done it, I may do it.”
Former president George W. Bush declared a national emergency after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as did Barack Obama during the swine flu outbreak in 2009.
According to legal experts who have previously spoken to Yahoo Finance, Trump may be able to draw on anywhere between 100 to 400 legal provisions to help him declare a national emergency, including two that might even help him with the wall.
If such a declaration were to occur, the president could reallocate funds directed to the military intended for civil works or military construction projects toward the wall. However, doing so runs the risk of a lawsuit brought forward by House Democrats.
“The president’s authority in this area is intended for wars and genuine national emergencies,” Evan Hollander, spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee, bluntly told Bloomberg. “Asserting this authority to build a wasteful wall is legally dubious and would invite a legal challenge from Congress.”
Aarthi is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami.