Jan. 6 (UPI) — President Donald Trump said he was considering the prospect of declaring a national emergency or offering a steel barrier to end the impasse over border security funding at the core of the ongoing partial government shutdown.
Trump said his administration was “looking at a national emergency because we have a national emergency” after returning Sunday evening from a meeting with White House staff at Camp David to discuss how to end the shutdown, which entered its 16th day.
Earlier in the day Trump repeated the notion that he may declare a national emergency “dependent on what’s going to happen over the next few days,” which he first proposed after meeting with congressional leaders at the White House on Friday, when he threatened to keep the government shut down “months or even years” if Congress does not pass funding for his border wall.
The legality of such a move is unclear, but Democratic lawmakers indicated a declaration of national emergency to secure funding for border security would be immediately met with a legal challenge.
The president also floated the idea of a compromise on the nature of the proposed border structure, saying a steel barrier instead of a concrete wall is fine.
“We have to build the wall or we have to build a barrier,” he said before the meeting.
He added that he had informed his staff to say “steel barrier” when discussing the proposed measure and said the slats would be “less obtrusive and stronger” than a concrete wall.
“They don’t like concrete, so we’ll give them steel,” Trump said in reference to congressional Democrats.
Vice President Mike Pence again met with congressional leadership Sunday, but Trump preempted the meeting by stating he didn’t “expect anything to happen” during those talks between congressional and White House staffers. “We’re going to have some very serious talks come Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,” Trump said Sunday morning.
Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who attended the sessions, told NBC News on Saturday that Trump is willing to “take a concrete wall off the table” in negotiations with Democrats over the shutdown.
“If he has to give up a concrete wall, replace it with a steel fence in order to do that so that Democrats can say, ‘See? He’s not building a wall anymore,’ that should help us move in the right direction,” Mulvaney said in an interview to run on Sunday’s Meet the Press.
On Saturday, mainly staff-level officials met more than two hours in the vice president’s ceremonial office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Earlier, Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen conducted a briefing in the White House Situation Room.
Other White House officials in attendance included senior adviser Jared Kushner and legislative affairs director Shahira Knight. Also present were aides to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.; House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La.; and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
Not present were Trump, who wants more than $5 billion to fund a border wall with Mexico, and Democratic congressional leaders, who don’t want money for added barriers.
Pence posted a photo of the session on Twitter after it ended with the following message: “Productive discussion w/ Congressional leadership staff at @WhiteHouse. @SecNielsen gave a full presentation on crisis along Southern Border. We reaffirmed @POTUS’ commitment to secure the border, build the wall, keep Americans safe & reopen gov’t. Discussions continue tomorrow.”
Trump said he was told by Pence the talks weren’t productive.
During the shutdown about 800,000 workers are furloughed or working without pay because they are deemed essential, including in the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security. Three-quarters of the government is fully funded through September, including the military.
“I don’t care that most of the workers not getting paid are Democrats, I want to stop the Shutdown as soon as we are in agreement on Strong Border Security!,” the president tweeted on Saturday.
Trump told reporters Sunday “many of those people that won’t be receiving a paycheck, many of those people agree 100 percent with what I’m doing.”
On Thursday, Democrats took control of the House and passed two spending bills aimed at ending the shutdown but not including funding for the wall.
Before the shutdown Dec. 22, the Senate unanimously approved the same funding but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., now won’t bring the measures up because Trump has said he would veto them. Earlier, Trump had given support of the funding without money for the boarder but changed his mind.