In a somber televised plea, President Donald Trump urged congressional Democrats to fund his long-promised border wall Tuesday night, blaming illegal immigration for what he called a scourge of drugs and violence in the U.S.
Framing the debate over the partial government shutdown in stark terms, he declared: "This is a choice between right and wrong".
Democrats in response accused Trump of appealing to "fear, not facts" and manufacturing a border crisis for political gain.
The back-to-back remarks by Trump and Democratic leaders appeared unlikely to do much to break the logjam that has left large swaths of the government closed.
Three weeks into the shutdown, the strain was starting to show with hundreds of thousands of federal workers on track to miss paychecks this week.
Addressing the nation from the Oval Office for the first time, Trump argued for spending some $5.7 billion for a border wall on both security and humanitarian grounds as he sought to put pressure on newly empowered Democrats amid the extended shutdown.
Trump, who will visit the Mexican border in person on Thursday, invited the Democrats to return to the White House to meet with him on Wednesday, saying it was "immoral" for "politicians to do nothing."
He claimed they could resolve the standoff in "45 minutes," but previous meetings have led to no agreement as Trump insists on the wall that was his signature promise in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Shifting between empathetic appeals and the dark immigration rhetoric that was a trademark of his presidential campaign, Trump asked: "How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?"
Responding in their own televised remarks, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer accused Trump of misrepresenting the situation on the border as they urged him to reopen closed government departments and turn loose paychecks for hundreds of thousands of workers.
Negotiations on wall funding could proceed in the meantime, they said.