As the government shutdown enters its 18th day, President Trump is planning to address the nation Tuesday night—tonight—from the Oval Office. He is also set to visit the border Thursday. Trump requested the prime-time broadcast slot of 9 p.m., which all major networks agreed to accommodate. Networks are not required to satisfy such requests; in 2014, networks declined to air an Obama address on immigration policy. Shortly after Trump’s announcement, Democratic congressional leaders released a statement demanding equal television time. The statement reads, “if his past statements are any indication, [President Trump’s address] will be full of malice and misinformation.” Democratic lawmakers are planning to move ahead with a series of appropriations bills today that would reopen most government agencies, although Trump and the Republicans have not said they would sign onto the measures.
This comes as the effects of the shutdown—now the second-longest shutdown in U.S. history—continue to be felt across the country. TSA agents, who have been working without pay as essential employees, have been calling in sick in record numbers to protest the shutdown, making for long wait times and possible security concerns at airports. Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers are raising concerns that funding for food stamp benefits may run out for the nearly 39 million people who depend on the federal program each month.
On Monday, Democratic Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen held a roundtable with federal workers affected by the shutdown. This is LaVerne Byrd, a union representative from the Census Bureau.
LaVerne Byrd: “The president doesn’t understand that we are human beings. We are people. Federal workers, that’s just like, you know, words: 'federal workers.' No, no, no. I am the federal worker. He is the federal worker. We are people. We have bills to pay. We have mortgages to pay. We have food we need to eat to survive, just like everybody else. It’s not a game to us. I mean, it seems like it’s a game to him. 'Oh, I'll keep it shut, keep the government shut down for months, for years.’ Well, what about the 800,000 people? Do you even care? Do you have a heart? It doesn’t seem so.”