The United States faces a looming crisis — that, at least, was a point on which Democrats and Republicans agreed Tuesday night in a pair of televised addresses during primetime. They didn’t agree what that crisis might be.
According to President Donald Trump, who peppered his plea for border wall funding with descriptions of murders committed by people who arrived in the country illegally, it was an unchecked influx of migrants carrying dark intent and illegal drugs. (His claims about the latter were misleading: Most drugs arrive in the United States in vehicles at legitimate points of entry, not in remote stretches of the border.)
According to Democratic leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, it was a bull-headed president’s determination to “govern by temper tantrum” at the expense of the American people, particularly the furloughed workers who stand to miss a scheduled paycheck if the government remains shut down Friday.
What did our local representatives say?
Ohio Republican Rep. Brad Wenstrup backed the president’s demand for a wall. Rather than focusing on violent crimes committed by migrants, as the president had, Wenstrup focused on “the health and safety of all Americans” and framed the wall as essential to the wellbeing of American political principles as well as individual people.
His tweets linked to a Dec. 20, 2018 blog post in which he made the same points and linked poor border security to the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa during 2014. Ebola has never been a recorded problem with immigration involving the United States' southern border, but an official report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did support his claims that security checks on international travelers helped stanch the disease's spread in 2014.
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, live-tweeted the president’s speech, echoed Schumer’s characterization of the shutdown as a consequence of a presidential “temper tantrum” and punctuated each message with #FactsMatter.
Having visited furloughed foodservice workers earlier in the day, he continued to emphasize the impact of the ongoing shutdown on low-wage government workers and the Americans attempting to access government services.
“Due to the government shutdown, millions of low-income renters are at risk if the shutdown continues into February, when public housing officials say they don’t know if rental assistance payments will be able to continue,” he wrote.
Brown’s final tweet encouraged readers to call Kentucky Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and “demand he brings a bill to the floor to open the government.”
Sen. McConnell, meanwhile, voiced his support for the president’s plan in a news release.
“Tonight, President Trump reaffirmed his commitment to addressing the humanitarian and security crisis at our nation’s southern border,” he said. “His proposal to increase security through physical barriers suits the reality on the ground. It’s what career Border Patrol experts support and are asking for. And it simply builds on earlier legislation that Senate Democrats like then-Senator Obama, then-Senator Clinton, and Senator Schumer previously supported with enthusiasm.”
That point, which other Republicans have also employed in their arguments for the president’s proposed wall, referred to the Secure Fence Act of 2006. Schumer as well as then-senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton voted then to pass the legislation, which authorized about 700 miles of fencing along the United States-Mexico Border.
PolitiFact found the claim partially true when White House budget director Mick Mulvaney used it in 2016.
“The fence they voted for is not as substantial as the wall Trump is proposing,” fact-checker Allison Graves wrote then. “Trump himself called the 2006 fence a ‘nothing wall.’”
McConnell also blamed the 18-day partial government shutdown on “Democrats’ refusal to negotiate” because of “partisan spite for the president.”
Fellow Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul did not immediately issue a formal response.
Neither did Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican Rep. Steve Chabot or Indiana Republican Sen. Todd Young.