Trump, Democrats Remain at Odds Over Border Wall
The partial U.S. government shutdown hit its 24th day Monday, but there was no end in sight as President Donald Trump and opposition Democrats remain locked in a stalemate over his demand for money to build a barrier along the U.S.-Mexican border that they oppose.
"I've been waiting all weekend," Trump said on Twitter. "Democrats must get to work now. Border must be secured!"
The U.S. leader contended that the top congressional Democrats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, "can end the Shutdown in 15 minutes."
"At this point it has become their, and the Democrats, fault!" he tweeted, although Trump said a month ago that he would proudly "own" the shutdown in a fight over border security.
Congress returns to business Monday, although Trump ridiculed 30 Democratic lawmakers for flying over the weekend to Puerto Rico, the sunny U.S. island territory in the Caribbean, for a charity performance of the hit Broadway show "Hamilton," while he remained in snowy Washington.
Late Sunday, Trump, in one of a string of tweets, quoted an editorial by conservative commentator Pat Buchanan saying, "The Trump portrait of an unsustainable Border Crisis is dead on," and contending that if the border is not defended "the United States, as we have known it, is going to cease to exist."
Trump finished with his own comment: "The great people of our Country demand proper Border Security NOW!
Sen. Graham's idea
Earlier Sunday, one of Trump's closest allies in the U.S. Senate urged him to at least temporarily reopen the quarter of federal government operations that have been shuttered since Dec. 22 and negotiate with Democrats.
South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham told Fox News Sunday he would still support a presidential emergency declaration to build the border wall without congressional authorization 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 Pelosi, who joked she would give Trump money for a border wall — $1.
"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.
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 immediately challenge in court. Democrats have offered $1.3 billion in new funding for border security, but none specifically for a wall.
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 blamed 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 making 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.
Meanwhile, 800,000 federal employees are either furloughed or working without pay. 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 or little or no savings in case of an emergency. While the Trump has said he "can relate" to their loss of income, he says a broken border is more damaging than a government shutdown.