President Donald Trump said he could declare a national emergency to circumvent Congress and build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, shortly after threatening Democrats he’s prepared to keep the government shutdown for a year or longer if his demands aren’t met.
“Absolutely we can call a national emergency because of the security of our country,” Mr Trump said Friday at the White House. “I haven’t done it. I may do it. We can call a national emergency and build it very quickly.”
Mr Trump made the comments just moments after Democratic leaders left the White House saying there had been no progress toward a deal during a nearly two-hour meeting on Friday. The sides agreed to meet to work on the standoff over the weekend, and Trump expressed optimism that a deal could be forged.
“We really can not resolve this until we open up government, and we made that clear to the president,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Friday after the White House meeting.
The US President said on Friday he could keep parts of the government shut down for "months or even years" as he and Democratic leaders failed in a second closed-door meeting to resolve the dispute over the funds to build a border wall. They agreed to a new round of weekend talks between staff members and White House officials.
Parts of the US government have been shut down for 14 days after Mr Trump refused to sign a spending bill that didn’t include billions of dollars to continue construction of a border wall, his top campaign promise. He remains at an impasse with congressional Democrats, who consider the proposed wall a waste of money and have refused to fund it.
House Democrats suggested they would sue if Mr Trump tries to declare a national emergency to build the wall.
“The president’s authority in this area is intended for wars and genuine national emergencies,” Evan Hollander, spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement. “Asserting this authority to build a wasteful wall is legally dubious and would invite a legal challenge from Congress.”
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum and former director of the Congressional Budget Office, said Trump would still need Congress for the funds.
“Congress holds the purse strings,” Holtz-Eakin said. “That’s the essence of this dispute. He can declare a national emergency all he wants, but where’s he going to get the money?”
Mr Trump has claimed broad public support for building a wall or other barrier that Democrats call a waste of money. The standoff has shuttered nine of the 15 federal departments and left hundreds of thousands of workers on furlough or working without pay. Asked whether he accepted responsibility for the shutdown, Mr Trump responded: “You can call it the Schumer or the Pelosi or the Trump shutdown, it doesn’t matter to me. Just words.”
“If we can do it through a negotiated process, we’re giving that a shot,” Mr Trump said.