WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump’s demands for border wall funding created political gridlock on Capitol Hill so severe that the government endured its longest shutdown in U.S. history but on Tuesday night, the president delivered his second State of the Union by urging an end to political stalemates in Washington.
“Together we can break decades of political stalemates. We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future,” Trump said Tuesday night. “The decision is ours to make.”
But some of the “wounds” are newer than others and calls for comity stand in stark contrast to the president’s vow to shut the government down again on Feb. 15 if his demands for border wall funding go unmet.
President Trump’s decision to abruptly reopen the government on Jan. 25 arrived after four weeks of steadily mounting pressure from industries as varied as the Federal Aviation Administration to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Agents Association.
The president’s approval numbers also saw a sharp decline during the shutdown.
Tuesday night’s address also marks just ten days since lawmakers and federal employees officially returned to work and according to the American Federation of Government Employees, issues from the shutdown are still lingering.
Some federal employees have received only part of the back pay they are owed – others, like federal railroad inspectors have not been paid at all. Other payroll processors have failed to make automatic deductions for employees, like court-ordered alimony and child support payments, leaving employees to unravel a maze of bureaucracy with little to no assistance from the government.
“The administration promised a prompt and orderly return to normal as soon as the shutdown was over, but unfortunately the payroll process has been slow and chaotic,” David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees said in a statement Tuesday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ultimately refused to acquiesce to the president’s demands for $5.7 billion in wall funding last month and her looming presence – she sat right over the president’s shoulder during his address – served as a stark reminder: the power dynamic in Washington is shifting.
During his last State of the Union, Republicans held a majority in the House and Senate but stinging defeats in last year’s midterms for the GOP ushered in a wave of Democratic lawmakers who stand largely opposed to the Trump administration’s most hotly-contested policies – in particular, immigration.
But the president did not appear ready to back down on the issue.
“[The goal] is to create an immigration system that is safe, lawful, modern and secure and to pursue a foreign policy that puts Americans interests first. There is a new opportunity in American politics if only we have the courage together to seize it,” Trump said.
Though he proposed implementing a “human wall” to deter illegal crossings on Twitter Tuesday afternoon, the president was mum on the suggestion during his address.
He did not elaborate Tuesday night on how a “human wall” would be enforced but the border will soon be heavily populated by U.S. forces.
The Department of Defense and the Pentagon announced this weekend that it deployed 3,750 additional U.S. forces to the border, bringing troop totals to 4,350 when active U.S. Customs and Border Protection already on the border are included. Troops will remain in the region for at least 90 days.
“Congress has 10 days left to pass a bill that will fund our government, protect our homeland and secure our very dangerous southern border. Now is the time for Congress to show the world that America is committed to ending illegal immigration and putting the ruthless coyotes, cartels and drug dealers and human traffickers out of business,” Trump said Tuesday night, repeating warnings about “large” caravans “on the march to the United States.”