WASHINGTON — Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Tuesday night accused President Donald Trump of using "the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis" in his prime time address to the nation.
"We can secure our border without an expensive, ineffective wall. And we can welcome legal immigrants and refugees without compromising safety and security," said Schumer during the brief official Democratic response to the president's Tuesday night remarks. "The symbol of America should be the Statue of Liberty, not a 30-foot wall."
"There is an obvious solution: separate the shutdown from the arguments over border security. There is bipartisan legislation — supported by Democrats and Republicans — to re-open government while allowing debate over border security to continue," he said from the Capitol, standing beside Pelosi.
"The President is rejecting these bipartisan bills which would re-open government — over his obsession with forcing American taxpayers to waste billions of dollars on an expensive and ineffective wall — a wall he always promised Mexico would pay for!" Pelosi said.
The pair spoke following President Donald Trump's eight-minute speech from the White House Oval Office that aired across multiple networks around 9 p.m.
"Most presidents have used Oval Office addresses for noble purposes," said Schumer. "This president just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration."
In his address minutes earlier, Trump accused "Democrats in Congress have refused to acknowledge the crisis. The federal government remains shutdown for one reason and one reason only — because Democrats will not fund border security. The only solution is for Democrats to pass a spending bill that defends our borders and reopens the government."
Trump argued that the U.S.-Mexico border has served as a "pipeline" for illegal drugs and that this is a "crisis of the heart and crisis of the soul."
Their statements came on the 18th day of the federal government shutdown, which began Dec. 22, after Democrats and Republicans failed to reach a compromise and break the impasse over the president's $5.7 billion border wall funding request.
Congressional leadership has been invited back to the White House for another meeting in the Situation Room at 3 p.m. ET Wednesday to discuss border wall funding. Pelosi, Schumer as well as House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., will be among those attending, multiple sources told NBC News.
Trump and Pence are also expected to meet with Senate Republicans behind closed doors Wednesday during their weekly lunch.
Some Senate Republicans have grown increasingly frustrated with the shutdown. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, for example, called Tuesday for Congress and the president to open up the rest of government not related to DHS while negotiations continue over a border wall, saying "we don't need to hold up these six other departments at the same time that we are resolving these very important security issues. Murkowski's call comes after Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., called for the same last week.
A few hours before Trump's remarks, two House Democrats from California — Jackie Speier and Jared Huffman — brought what they said was garbage picked up at national parks last weekend and delivered it to the White House. With the shutdown now in its third week, trash at the parks has been accumulating, and some have been forced to close such as Joshua Tree National Park due to damage.
Trump, for his part, has repeatedly doubled down on his demand for a wall, and even floated the idea last Friday of declaring a national emergency in order to circumvent Congress and unilaterally authorize construction himself. In those same comments, Trump also threatened to keep the government shutdown "months or even years" if Congress does not pass funding for his border wall.
About 800,000 federal workers are affected by the shutdown, with 420,000 required to work without pay while 380,000 are furloughed.
Both Pelosi and Schumer have refused to budge on their position of opposing the border wall, especially now that Democrats have regained control of the House majority
After two White House meetings last week between Trump and congressional leaders failed to produce any progress, staff for those lawmakers met with Vice President Mike Pence and other White House aides over the weekend, but still were unable to break the stalemate.
After Democrats took control of the House Thursday, they passed two spending bills aimed at ending the shutdown, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he will not bring the measures up in the Senate because Trump has said he would veto them.