Top Trump Senate Ally Urges President to Reopen Shuttered Parts of Government
One of President Donald Trump's closest allies in the U.S. Senate is urging him to at least temporarily reopen the shuttered federal government and negotiate with Democrats on a border wall.
South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham told Fox News Sunday he would still support a presidential emergency declaration after giving talks another chance.
"I would urge him to open up the government for a short period of time, like three weeks, before he pulls the plug, see if we can get a deal. If we can't at the end of three weeks, all bets are off," Graham said.
Graham echoed Trump by blaming the three-week long government shutdown on Democrats – specifically House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who joked she would give Trump $1 for the border wall.
"How do you negotiate with the speaker of the house when she tells you even if you open up the government, we are not going to give you but $1 for the wall? So until that changes, there's not much left except the national emergency approach," Graham said on Fox.
Declaring a national emergency along the U.S.-Mexican border would allow Trump to spend the $5 billion he wants for a wall without congressional approval – a move Democrats would be expected to immediately challenge in court.
Democrats see waste of money
Most Democrats say they agree on the need for border security, but say there is no national security crisis and believe a wall would be an impractical waste of money.
"I do think if we reopen the government, if the president ends this shutdown crisis, we have folks who can negotiate a responsible, modern investment in technology that will actually make us safer," Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware said on Fox.
Coons blames the impasse on border wall funding that led to the shutdown on Trump. He said the president had accepted a border security package that included money for a wall, then changed his mind.
"The only crisis here is one that's been created by the president's abrupt change in position at the end of last year in the last days of a Republican-controlled Congress," Coons said. He added that Trump should test the Democrats' willingness to compromise by the concessions he is willing to make clear to everyone.
Trump insists building a wall along the border will bring down the nation's crime rate. He says illegal drugs are pouring into the United States from Mexico, even though security experts say most come through legal ports of entry.
He said he is in the White House waiting for Democrats to come and make a deal.
Trump chided 30 congressional Democrats for heading to a Hispanic Caucus retreat in Puerto Rico to watch a charity performance of the smash Broadway show "Hamilton."
Trump mocked them for "having fun" while he remains in snowy Washington.
Watch related video by VOA's Michael Bowman:
Partial US Government Shutdown Enters Week 4
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But the lawmakers reportedly bought their own tickets to the show. They will also meet Puerto Rican officials on the recovery from Hurricane Maria – the powerful storm that devastated the island in 2017. They have also brought donated medical supplies.
Meanwhile, 800,000 federal employees will begin their 24th day Monday either furloughed or working without pay.
Trump: 'Broken Border' More Damaging Than Government Shutdown
Newspapers and TV newscasts across the country are filled with stories of government workers lying awake at night wondering how they are going to pay their bills.
Congress says all affected federal workers will get back pay as soon as the shutdown is over, but that brings little assurance to those who have immediate expenses and little or no savings in case of an emergency.
While Trump has said he "can relate" to their loss of income, he says a broken border is more damaging than a government shutdown.