WASHINGTON: US Vice President Mike Pence and other senior Trump administration officials met on Saturday with Democratic congressional staffers to try to break a deadlock over a proposed border wall and end a two-week-old partial government shutdown.
President Donald Trump is demanding $5.6 billion to build a wall along the US border with Mexico but Democrats in control of the House of Representatives this week passed a bill to reopen the government without providing additional funding for the wall. Trump says he will not sign the bill until he gets the money for the wall.
With the two sides sticking to their positions, a quarter of the federal government has been closed for two weeks, leaving 800,000 public workers unpaid.
Before entering the talks on Saturday, Pence said in a tweet that the administration’s goal was not just to end the shutdown but “to provide funding to end the crisis at our southern border, achieve real border security & to build the wall!” Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a senior adviser, also attended the meeting at the White House, along with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and new White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. They were negotiating with senior staff for the top Democrats in Congress.
Nancy Pelosi, the new Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, said this week that Trump’s proposed wall was “immoral” and a “waste of money”. Trump reiterated his demand for a border wall in a series of tweets on Saturday.
“The Democrats could solve the Shutdown problem in a very short period of time,” Trump said. “All they have to do is approve REAL Border Security (including a Wall), something which everyone, other than drug dealers, human traffickers and criminals, want very badly!”
Trump threatened on Friday to take the step of using emergency powers to build the wall without Congress’ approval.
Such a move would almost certainly be met with legal challenges.