WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump stood firm on Sunday on his demand for billions of dollars to fund a border wall with Mexico, claiming “tremendous” support inside his camp on the contentious issue which has forced a government shutdown now entering its third week.
“We have to build the wall,” Trump told reporters as he left the White House for the Camp David presidential retreat. “It’s about safety, it’s about security for our country.
“We have no choice,” he said, warning once more that he may invoke emergency powers to get a wall built without congressional approval.
“I may declare a national emergency, dependent on what’s going to happen over the next few days.”
An impasse with lawmakers over funding for the border wall has partially shut down the federal government since Dec 22. Trump said on Friday that the standoff could last “months or even years”. The shutdown has left some 800,000 federal workers sent home or working without pay. Large numbers of federal contractors are also losing pay.
Talks aimed at ending the shutdown were to resume early Sunday afternoon in Vice President Mike Pence’s office, a day after a meeting involving him and representatives of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, the top two Democrats in Congress, made little headway.
Trump indicated however he was not expecting a weekend breakthrough, saying there would be “very serious talks come Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.”
Trump repeated his claim that many furloughed federal workers “agree 100 percent” with his demands, while asserting he also had “tremendous support within the Republican Party”.
But Democrats, who now control the House of Representatives, seem in no mood to make concessions on a border wall Pelosi has described as an “immorality”.
Pelosi said on Sunday that if the president “doesn’t care whether people’s needs are met, or that public employees are paid or that we can have a legitimate discussion, then we have a problem”.
Trump’s acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told CNN on Sunday that Democratic negotiators seemed to have come to the talks Saturday “to stall”.
Both Democrats and Republicans have attempted to pin the blame for the shutdown — a disruptive political ritual almost unique to the American system — on the other side.
“This shutdown could end tomorrow and it could also go on for a long time,” Trump said. “It really depends on the Democrats.”