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    President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House, Friday, Jan 25, 2019, in Washington.

    Trump Set to Deliver State of the Union Address as Wall Funding Ultimatum Looms

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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - US President Donald Trump on Tuesday evening will deliver his second State of the Union (SOTU) address before a joint session of Congress amid concerns that he might declare a national emergency to build a wall on the southern border.

    Post-Shutdown SOTU

    According to Article II, Section 3 of the US constitution the president "shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient."

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    The President delivers the address annually before a joint session of the US Congress. Traditionally the president outlines the US economic and security situation and discusses the administration’s legislative agenda.

    Trump is scheduled to begin delivering the address shortly after 9:00 p.m. EST on Tuesday evening (2:00 a.m. GMT Wednesday).

    The president was initially scheduled to deliver the State of the Union on January 29. However, less than two weeks beforehand Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi postponed the proceedings citing security concerns due to the fact the US government was in the middle of a partial shutdown.

    The 35-day shutdown, the longest in US history, began on December 22 after Democratic lawmakers refused to approve $5.7 billion in spending Trump wanted to build a barrier on the US southern border.

    Meanwhile, Trump has repeatedly threatened to declare a national emergency to address what he calls a humanitarian crisis. The president has argued that a wall on the US southern border is needed to prevent waves of immigrant gangs, drug smugglers and human traffickers from pouring into the United States.

    An emergency declaration would allow Trump to bypass Congress and order the military to build a wall with funds diverted from elsewhere in the federal government.

    On January 25, the White House announced that a deal had been reached to temporarily end the partial shutdown and fund government agencies through February 15. Trump has vowed to move forward with plans to build a barrier on the US-Mexico border whether or not a deal with the Democrats is reached by the deadline.

    READ MORE: White House Preparing Draft National Emergency Order Amid Shutdown — Reports

    Trump hinted last week about the possibility of declaring a national emergency over the border crisis during the actual SOTU address itself.

    On Monday, White House political adviser Kellyanne Conway defended the possibility that Trump might declare a national emergency during Tuesday night’s speech.

    "The national emergency, if in fact, he [Trump] were to execute on that… is because he believes we have a crisis on the southern border and the Congress has failed to do its job," Conway said as quoted by a White House pool report when asked how Trump can strike a positive tone during his SOTU address when he is talking about declaring a national emergency.

    Conway also said that the president has been "very clear" that it is his first and solemn duty to keep all Americans safe, which includes securing the southern border.

    Some experts believe that despite Trump’s interest in building a border wall, announcing it during the SOTU speech is unlikely — albeit anything is possible.

    "I don't think he will declare a state of emergency to fund the wall or that he will spend much time on the topic at all," Rice University Latin America Initiative Program Director, Erika De La Garza, told Sputnik. "Then again, he's so unpredictable that who knows."

    The United States currently has physical barriers in place along about 30 percent of its 1,954-mile border with Mexico. At present, these 600 miles worth of barrier largely consist of multi-layered vehicle and pedestrian fences ranging in height from 15 to 20 feet tall.

    Trump has asked for an additional $5.7 billion to erect steel walls across 234 miles of the border. Current prototypes range in height from 18 to more than 30 feet tall, according to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency. Trump has slammed Democrats for opposing the construction of the wall considering they have supported similar plans under previous administrations.

    Trump's Message

    Trump will focus on security and economic issues during his address on Tuesday, White House officials have said. On Monday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told Fox News that the president will call on Congress to work together to solve problems instead of fighting each other.

    READ MORE: Trump Says Closer to Declaring National Emergency to Enable Wall Construction

    Sanders also said she expected Trump to laud the historic economic success achieved during his administration due to tax cuts and cutting business regulations.

    "You are going to continue to see the president push for policies that help continue the economic boom," Sanders said.

    An administration official told reporters last week that one of the key topics Trump will hit upon is extirpating the US military from forever wars overseas.

    "In terms of protecting America’s national security, the president will update Congress on his diplomatic and military efforts around the world and reaffirm his determination to protect American interest and bring to an end our endless foreign wars," the senior administration official said on Friday.

    Trump plans to address a range of security and economic issues during the SOTU address on Tuesday. One of the topics Trump will hit upon is extirpating the US military from forever wars overseas, an administration official told reporters last week.

    "In terms of protecting America’s national security, the president will update Congress on his diplomatic and military efforts around the world and reaffirm his determination to protect American interest and bring to an end our endless foreign wars," the senior administration official said on Friday.

    Trump at the end of 2018 said the United States was bringing troops home from Syria. In a statement on Friday the US President said the United States will soon have destroyed "100 percent" of the Islamic State terrorist group's (IS, banned in Russia) so-called caliphate.

    Meanwhile, a State Department envoy has been engaged in talks with the Taliban over the possibility of a US withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan.

    On Monday, the US Senate overwhelmingly passed an amendment opposing a "precipitous" US withdrawal of forces from Syria and Afghanistan.

    The administration official also told reporters Trump’s speech will focus on a way forward to resolve the impasse over a proposed wall on the US-Mexico border.

    According to the official, Trump will urge Congress to approve the recently negotiated US-Mexico-Canada Agreement to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

    In addition, Trump will review the US trading relationship with China and ongoing negotiations with Beijing to re-balance commerce between the two superpowers, the official added.

    READ MORE: Trump Mulls Declaring National Emergency Hours Before Address to Nation — Pence

    Other themes will include a request that Congress fund a bipartisan package to fix the nation’s aging infrastructure and efforts to lower costs of health care and drugs.

    The official described the current draft of the speech as upbeat in tone and an appeal to Congress for cooperation and compromise, the official said.

    Trump and First Lady Melania Trump have invited special guests to attend the address, the White House said in a press release on Monday. Among the guests will be the family members of a couple who were murdered by an illegal immigrant in addition to a survivor of the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

    University of Massachusetts at Amherst Professor of Economics Richard Wolff told Sputnik that Trump’s dialogue as usual will focus on nationalism while demonizing others like Iran and China.

    "He [Trump] uses nationalism to disguise his program to subsidize and stabilize private capitalism," Wolff said on Monday. "It [the economy] crashed in 2008 and imposed a lost decade on most Americans who are angry at the old status quo. Meanwhile Trump cut corporate taxes and deregulated business to support profits. The SOTU message will once again trot out the nationalist disguise for ‘saving’ capitalism yet again."

    Democratic Plans

    Many Democratic lawmakers plan to host guests at the State of the Union that exemplify opposition to Trump’s policies. Guests will include those who have suffered as a result of the president’s border policies and his orders to remove migrant legal protections.

    "I'm excited to share my #SOTU guest is Linda Clark, a Liberian immigrant facing deportation due to Trump decision to revoke DED [Deferred Enforced Departure] protections," Congresswoman Ilhan Omar said via Twitter on Monday. "She has lived here over 18 years, and there's no reason she should be taken from her family."

    Member of Congress Bonnie Watson Coleman will host Victorina Morales, an undocumented worker who was fired from the Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey.

    Some 800,000 US federal government workers were forced to take unpaid leave — or work without pay — during the course of the 35-day shutdown.

    Senator Tim Kaine announced earlier in the day that the head of the Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), Paul Rinaldi, accepted his invitation to represent "thousands" of air traffic controllers whom were hurt by the recent government shutdown.

    Senator Elizabeth Warren will host US Housing agency and vice president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 3258, Sajid Shahriar, who was on furlough for all 35 days of the partial shutdown.

    At least three congressional lawmakers have even announced that they are boycotting Trump’s address altogether.

    READ MORE: US Extends National Emergency Over Malicious Cyber Activities — Trump

    Other guests will include transgender soldiers and a woman’s rights activist who confronted Senator Jeff Flake over Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination in light of sexual abuse allegations.

    Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacy Abrams shortly after Trump’s speech will give the Democratic response to the SOTU address. Last week, Abrams said she is honored to accept the task and that the United States needs to hear from leaders who can unite for a common purpose.

    Abrams lost to Republican candidate Brian Kemp in November during a racially-charged contest marred by allegations of voter discrimination, suppression and disenfranchisement of minorities.


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