As U.S. shutdown ties record, Trump weighs emergency declaration

President Donald Trump salutes a U.S. Border Patrol helicopter as he stands with U.S. Border Patrol agents as it flies over the Rio Grande River during his visit to the U.S. - Mexico border in Mission, Texas, U.S., January 10, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump, facing the prospect of the longest U.S. government shutdown in history, is considering declaring a national emergency that would likely escalate a policy dispute with Democrats over his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall into a court test of presidential power.

To escape a political trap of his own making, Trump on Thursday suggested that he might declare an emergency so he can bypass Congress to get funding for his wall, which was a central promise of his 2016 election campaign.

As the partial government shutdown entered its 21st day on Friday, Trump reiterated his claim in an early-morning tweet, saying Mexico would indirectly pay for the wall, without offering any evidence. It would become the longest U.S. shutdown on Saturday.

He originally pledged Mexico would pay for the wall, which he says is needed to stem the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs. But the Mexican government has refused. Trump is now demanding that Congress provide $5.7 billion in U.S. taxpayer funding for the wall.

Democrats in Congress call the wall an ineffective, outdated answer to a complex problem. The standoff has left a quarter of the federal government closed down and hundreds of thousands of federal employees staying home on furlough or working without pay set to miss their paychecks.

With no Capitol Hill compromise in sight, Trump publicly ruminated on Thursday during a trip to the Texas border about declaring an emergency.

A close Trump confidant judged the time for such a step had come. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said in a statement: “It is time for President Trump to use emergency powers to fund the construction of a border wall/barrier. I hope it works.”

The Wall Street Journal, NBC and the Washington Post, citing unnamed sources, reported that the White House had asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to look into diverting money from its budget toward the wall and to explore how fast construction could begin under an emergency declaration. Reuters could not immediately verify the accuracy of the reports.

BOXED IN

Critics of the national emergency strategy have said it may be illegal. In any case, it was almost certain to trigger an immediate court challenge from Democrats, including an accusation of trying to circumvent Congress’ power over the national purse strings.

That would push the wall impasse into the courts, allowing the government to be fully reopened while the judges weigh the case, which could take months.

“After the emergency announcement, the path toward construction via executive order may be as unclear as a storm at midnight. But it will at least allow the president to move out of the corner he’s boxed himself into,” said Charles Gabriel, analyst at strategy firm Capital Alpha Partners.

Partial government funding expired on Dec. 22, leaving departments ranging from Justice, Agriculture and Treasury to Commerce and Homeland Security without money to operate programs and pay their workers.

An emergency declaration would come with risks. Even some of Trump’s fellow Republicans in Congress have signaled worries about such an action. Given that the Constitution gives Congress the power to set spending priorities and appropriate money, they worry about a tough legal fight and an unwise precedent.

‘CROSSING THE RUBICON’

“If Trump crosses this Rubicon, what would prevent a Democratic president from declaring a ‘national emergency’ on Day 1 of their administration on climate change and/or healthcare?” Chris Krueger, an analyst at strategy firm Cowen Washington Research Group, asked in a commentary note.

Senator Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat who has had good relations with Trump, said declaring a national emergency would be “wrong, but I think that’s his only way out.”

Manchin predicted that if Trump made the declaration, Congress would immediately move to pass bills funding the various agencies, knowing that the president would then be able to sign them into law.

While some Republican senators have begun clamoring for an end to the shutdown, party leaders toeing Trump’s line this week have ignored passage in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives of funding bills for government agencies. The House was expected to pass more such bills on Friday.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Peter Cooney)

House Democrats to test Republicans on Trump’s wall demand

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) arrives for a House Democratic party caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. January 9, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – On the 19th day of a partial U.S. government shutdown, Democrats were set on Wednesday to test Republicans’ resolve in backing President Donald Trump’s drive to build a wall on the border with Mexico, which has sparked an impasse over agency funding.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats, who took control of the chamber last week, plan to advance a bill to immediately reopen the Treasury Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and several other agencies that have been partially shut down since Dec. 22.

Democrats are eager to force Republicans to choose between funding the Treasury’s Internal Revenue Service – at a time when it should be gearing up to issue tax refunds to millions of Americans – and voting to keep it partially shuttered.

In a countermove, the Trump administration said on Tuesday that even without a new shot of funding, the IRS would somehow make sure those refund checks get sent.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told Fox News on Wednesday that Trump was still considering a declaration of a national emergency to circumvent Congress and redirect government funds toward the wall.

The Republican president’s push for a massive barrier on the border has dominated the Washington debate and sparked a political blame game as both Trump and Democrats remain dug in.

In a nationally televised address on Tuesday night, Trump asked: “How much more American blood must be shed before Congress does its job?” referring to murders he said were committed by illegal immigrants.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell opened the Senate on Wednesday with an attack on Democrats for not supporting Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion for the wall.

But Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Trump’s speech was a rehash of spurious arguments and misleading statistics.

“The president continues to fearmonger and he makes up the facts,” Schumer said.

DEMOCRATIC TACTICS

Later in the week, Pelosi plans to force votes that one-by-one provide the money to operate departments ranging from Homeland Security and Justice to State, Agriculture, Commerce and Labor.

By using a Democratic majority to ram those bills through the House, Pelosi is hoping enough Senate Republicans back her up and abandon Trump’s wall gambit.

The political maneuvering comes amid a rising public backlash over the suspension of some government activities that has resulted in the layoffs of hundreds of thousands of federal workers.

Other “essential” employees are being required to report to work, but without pay for the time being.

As House Democrats plow ahead, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will go to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to attend a weekly closed lunch meeting of Senate Republicans.

They are expected to urge them to hold firm on his wall demands, even as some are publicly warning their patience is wearing thin.

Later in the day, Trump is scheduled to host bipartisan congressional leaders to see if they can break the deadlock. On Thursday, Trump travels to the border to highlight an immigration “crisis” that his base of conservative supporters wants him to address.

With tempers running high over Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion just for this year to fund wall construction, there are doubts Pelosi’s plan will succeed in forcing the Senate to act.

McConnell has not budged from his hard line of refusing to bring up any government funding bill that does not have Trump’s backing even as a few moderate members of his caucus have called for an end to the standoff.

The funding fight stems from Congress’ inability to complete work by a Sept. 30, 2018, deadline on funding all government agencies. It did, however, appropriate money for about 75 percent of the government by that deadline – mainly military and health-related programs.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Amanda Becker and Susan Heavey; Editing by Bill Trott and Alistair Bell)

In Oval Office speech, Trump demands a wall but does not declare emergency

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers a televised address to the nation from his desk in the Oval Office, about immigration and the southern U.S. border on the 18th day of a partial government shutdown, at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 8, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

By Jeff Mason and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump urged Congress in a televised speech on Tuesday to give him $5.7 billion this year to help build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico but stopped short of declaring a national emergency to pay for the barrier with military funds.

Facing Democratic opposition in Congress to a wall that he promised to build as a presidential candidate, Trump said in his first prime-time address from the Oval Office that there was a growing security and humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Using blunt language in an attempt to win public support, the Republican president said illegal immigrants and drugs flowing across the southern border posed a serious threat to American safety.

“How much more American blood must be shed before Congress does its job?” he said, recounting gruesome details of murders he said were committed by illegal immigrants.

But after days of hinting he might use presidential powers to declare an emergency as a first step toward directing money for the wall without congressional approval, Trump said he would continue seeking a solution to the impasse with Congress.

Trump’s speech came 18 days into a partial government shutdown precipitated by his demand for the wall. Public opposition to the shutdown is growing and that could hurt Trump, as he said last month he would be proud to close the government to fight for the wall.

Democratic leaders, in a rebuttal also carried live on national television, accused the president on Tuesday night of using fear tactics and spreading misinformation about the situation along the border.

“The president has chosen fear. We want to start with the facts,” said Nancy Pelosi, Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives.

“The fact is, President Trump has chosen to hold hostage critical services for the health, safety and well-being of the American people and withhold the paychecks of 800,000 innocent workers across the nation, many of them veterans,” she said.

BLAME GAME

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday found that 51 percent of adults mainly blamed Trump for the shutdown, up 4 percentage points from late December, while 32 percent blamed congressional Democrats and 7 percent faulted Republicans in Congress.

Republican lawmakers have increasingly expressed concerns about Trump’s handling of the long-running dispute.

But he has shown no signs of giving up. He is scheduled to visit the southwest border on Thursday and may still choose to make the national emergency declaration.

Vice President Mike Pence told reporters on Monday the president was considering the possibility and the White House counsel’s office was studying its legality.

Democrats and other opponents of a wall have threatened to take legal action if Trump issues an emergency order.

They say he is manufacturing a crisis in a bid to meet his 2016 presidential campaign promise for a wall that he said at the time would be paid for by Mexico. The Mexican government has refused to provide such funds.

Trump was to meet at the White House on Wednesday with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders.

Politics colored the remarks from both sides on Tuesday.

Trump said African-Americans and Hispanics were especially hard hit by the border crisis; both groups are key Democratic constituencies. Pelosi pointedly mentioned that veterans were hurt by the shutdown; Trump has courted veterans as a candidate and as president.

Trump at times tried to adopt a softer tone. “This is a humanitarian crisis, a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul,” he said, suggesting that women and children were among the migrants often victimized by trafficking across the border.

Hoping to demonstrate flexibility during his nearly 10-minute speech, Trump said of the border barrier he wants to be built: “At the request of the Democrats it will be a steel barrier and not a concrete wall.”

But Democrats have opposed not just the construction materials to be used, but the extent of a project that could end up costing more than $24 billion over the long run.

Democrats also argue that a mix of fencing, which already has been constructed in many parts of the border, and higher-tech tools would be cheaper and more effective in securing the border.

Pelosi said Trump rejected bipartisan legislation to reopen the government agencies shuttered as a result of the fight over the wall, and that he was obsessed with “forcing American taxpayers to waste billions of dollars on an expensive and ineffective wall.”

She has previously called the wall immoral. Trump took issue with that in his speech.

“The only thing that is immoral is the politicians to do nothing and continue to allow more innocent people to be so horribly victimized,” he said.

U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, who delivered a rebuttal along with Pelosi, urged the president to reopen the government while the debate over immigration policies continued.

“The symbol of America should be the Statue of Liberty, not a 30-foot wall,” he said. “So our suggestion is a simple one. Mr. President: Reopen the government and we can work to resolve our differences over border security. But end this shutdown now.”

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Amanda Becker, Eric Beech and David Alexander in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Citing ‘crisis,’ Trump to seek border wall support in televised address

A woman walks past the entrance to the National Archives which is closed due to a partial government shutdown continues, in Washington, U.S., January 7, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Young

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump will make his case to Americans on Tuesday that a wall is urgently needed to resolve what he calls a crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, trying to make good on a campaign promise in a dispute that has sparked an 18-day partial government shut-down.

Trump’s prime-time address, scheduled for 9 p.m. will be the Republican president’s latest attempt to persuade Democrats to back his push for a steel barrier on the southern border.

Amid his talk of crisis, Trump is considering declaring the border situation a national emergency, which could get him out of an impasse by enabling him to bypass Congress’ mandate to approve federal spending and to build the wall without its approval. However, such a step would likely face an immediate legal challenge.

Trump has long maintained that a border wall is needed to stem the flow of illegal immigration and drugs, and in recent weeks has made the issue a priority. Democrats, who now control the House of Representatives, have consistently opposed it, calling it an expensive, inefficient and immoral way of trying to resolve immigration issues.

The dispute over wall funding – with Trump demanding $5.7 billion to help build it – led to a stalemate in Congress over funding for parts of the government. About a quarter of U.S. agencies have been shut down since last month and hundreds of thousands of government workers are likely to miss paychecks this week.

Trump’s remarks from the White House will also aim to shore up support among Republican lawmakers, who are wary of a potential backlash from the public as the effects of the shutdown intensify. Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to meet with Republican lawmakers later on Tuesday, before Trump’s speech.

Trump will tell the American people that there is “a humanitarian and security crisis” at the border, Pence said in television interviews on Tuesday morning.

The White House has not said why the situation constitutes a national emergency. Pence did not say whether Trump had made a decision or if the White House had completed its legal review of such a declaration.

“We believe we can solve this through the legislative process,” Pence told CBS, urging Democrats to negotiate.

While Trump has frequently painted a picture of an “unprecedented crisis” of illegal immigration at the U.S.-Mexican border, illegal crossings there have dropped dramatically in recent years. There were nearly 400,000 apprehensions on the border in the 2018 fiscal year, far down from the early 2000s when arrests regularly topped 1 million annually.

But in recent years, the border has seen many more Central American families and unaccompanied children turning up – sometimes in caravans of thousands of people – to seek asylum and the government does not have the facilities to take care of them. Such asylum-seekers often present themselves at official crossing points, something that would not change if a wall were built.

Despite the focus on the border with Mexico, most immigrants living in the United States without authorization entered with visas and then stayed on when their documents ran out.

‘DRASTICALLY MISINFORMING’

All major U.S. television networks agreed to broadcast Trump’s speech, prompting Democrats to seek equal air time.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer will deliver a televised response after Trump speaks on Tuesday night.

Democrats have said they support increased border security measures such as additional U.S. border agents and technology, but have rejected the administration’s claims about the security risks at the border and have raised concerns that Trump will use his speech to present a false narrative.

“Someone is drastically misinforming him,” Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Manchin told CNN.

Trump will continue pressing his case with a trip to the border on Thursday.

Pence said on Monday that progress was made in weekend talks that he led between administration officials and congressional staff over how to break the funding impasse and reopen the government.

Federal employees will feel the pinch from the shutdown on Friday when they will miss their paychecks for the first time, unless a deal is reached. The shutdown, which has left some 800,000 government workers furloughed or working without pay, is also affecting national parks, airline security screening, housing and food aid, and economic data.

“This isn’t about Democrats not wanting to talk about border security,” Democratic U.S. Senator Chris Murphy told MSNBC. “It’s about making sure that the federal workforce isn’t used over and over again as a hostage for the president’s campaign promises.”

Trump made his promise for a wall a signature issue in his 2016 White House run. He said Mexico would pay for it, although Mexico was always clear it would not, and he has now turned to Congress for the money.

In rejecting Trump’s demands, Democrats also point to the Trump administration’s controversial handling of families and other migrants from Central America at the border.

Critics have decried the previous separation of migrant children from families, the use of tear gas at the border and the case of two Guatemalan migrant children who died in U.S. custody in December.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington and Kenneth Li and Mica Rosenberg in New York; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Trump to travel to U.S.-Mexico border on Thursday: White House

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters in the Rose Garden after a meeting with U.S. Congressional leaders about the partial U.S. government shutdown and border security at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 4, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump plans to visit the U.S. southern border on Thursday, leaving Washington for the first time since the partial federal shutdown began 16 days ago over his demand for funding for a wall along the border with Mexico.

The Republican president showed no sign of backing off his pledge to build a wall, which he says is necessary to stem illegal immigration. Democrats in Congress disagree, with new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling the building of a wall “immoral.”

Trump skipped a planned trip to Florida to stay in the U.S. capital during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday after large chunks of the federal government were shuttered on Dec. 22. He exhorted Democrats in Congress to “come back from vacation” and approve funding for his wall.

Democrats returned to Washington in the new year, taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives, and passed legislation to reopen all closed government agencies but did not include wall funding. This week, they will pass a series of bills to reopen federal agencies after weekend talks between the Trump administration and Democratic negotiators failed to end a stalemate.

The White House did not provide details of Trump’s trip, but the planned visit will likely highlight security concerns pushed by the administration as justification for the wall.

“President @realDonaldTrump will travel to the Southern border on Thursday to meet with those on the front lines of the national security and humanitarian crisis,” White House spokesman Sarah Sanders said in a Twitter post on Monday.

She said details would be announced soon.

Lawmakers and Trump hit an impasse last month over Trump’s demand that a bill to keep the federal government operational include money to help build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. About 800,000 government workers are either furloughed or working without pay.

On Sunday, Trump pledged not to bend in his demand for $5.6 billion to pay for the wall but said the barrier could be made of steel instead of concrete as a potential compromise with Democrats who refuse to fund it.

Trump has argued the wall is necessary for national security and has tried to link terrorism to illegal immigration, without providing evidence, as justification for the plan. Democrats say the wall is expensive and inefficient, as well as contrary to American values.

Trump visited the southern border last March.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Tim Ahmann; Editing by David Alexander and Jeffrey Benkoe)

Trump holds firm on border wall, offers steel option as compromise

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he returns from Camp David to the White House in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

By Jeff Mason and Ginger Gibson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump pledged on Sunday not to bend in his demand for a wall along the southern border with Mexico but said the barrier could be made of steel instead of concrete as a potential compromise with Democrats who refuse to fund it.

Trump’s comments came at the start of the third week of a partial government shutdown resulting from the dispute that has left hundreds of thousands of federal workers idled or without paychecks.

Trump threatened again, without providing specifics on where the funding would originate, to declare a national emergency as an alternative way to build the wall, depending on the outcome of talks in the coming days.

Democrats have declined to approve the $5.6 billion Trump wants to fulfill a 2016 campaign promise to curb illegal immigration. Led by new Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrats passed a bill in the House of Representatives last week to reopen the government without wall funding. Pelosi has called a border wall immoral.

“This is a very important battle to win from the standpoint of safety, number one, (and) defining our country and who we are,” Trump told reporters at the White House before leaving for a short trip to the Camp David presidential retreat.

“The barrier, or the wall, can be of steel instead of concrete if that helps people. It may be better,” he said.

The White House painted that offer, which Trump floated previously, as an olive branch.

In a letter to congressional leaders on Sunday detailing its funding demands, the Trump administration included a request for an additional $800 million to address urgent humanitarian needs at the southern border.

Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s acting chief of staff, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that agreeing to a steel barrier would allow Democrats to stick to their refusal to fund a wall.

“That should help us move in the right direction,” he said.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer did not show his hand when asked whether the White House offer to move away from a concrete structure was evidence of compromise.

“It’ll be discussed,” he said on NBC.

Vice President Mike Pence led a second round of talks with congressional aides on Sunday about the issue, but Trump said he did not expect those talks to produce results, noting that the principals – himself, Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer – were the ones who could solve it quickly.

“If we don’t find a solution, it’s going to go on for a long time. There’s not going to be any bend right here,” Trump said.

He later tweeted that the Pence talks were productive. But a Democratic aide familiar with the meeting said Democrats urged the White House to pass measures to reopen the government without wall funding and Pence said Trump would not do that. The aide said no progress was made and no further meetings of the group were scheduled.

OTHER CONCESSIONS?

Democrats could demand other concessions from the White House, such as protections for immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children, known as Dreamers, or changes to other spending provisions. Trump said he wanted to help on the Dreamer issue but preferred to wait for a Supreme Court ruling on it first.

Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin reacted coolly to Trump’s suggestion of declaring a national emergency. “I don’t know what he’s basing this on, but he’s faced so many lawsuits when he ignores the law and ignores tradition and precedent,” Durbin said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Large chunks of the federal government were shut down on Dec. 22 after lawmakers and the president hit an impasse over Trump’s demand that a bill to keep the federal government operational include money to help build a $23 billion wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. About 800,000 government workers are either furloughed or working without pay.

“I can relate,” Trump, a former New York businessman, said when asked if he could relate to the pain of federal workers struggling to pay their bills. “I’m sure that the people that are on the receiving end will make adjustments.” Asked if workers would get paid on Friday, Trump said: “We’ll see whether or not it’s settled.”

Not all Republicans agree with Trump’s insistence on keeping government agencies shuttered until the border debate is resolved.

“It is not a sign of weakness to try to figure out a middle ground, and I think that both sides need to indicate a willingness to listen and to compromise, U.S. Senator Susan Collins of Maine said on NBC. She called the debate over using steel versus concrete “bizarre.”

House Democrats plan to pass a series of bills this week to reopen government, breaking up legislation they have already approved in a bid to get Republicans to agree to reopen certain agencies, Hoyer said on “Meet the Press.”

“We need to open up government and then negotiate. Not the other way around,” he said.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Ginger Gibson; Additional reporting by Amanda Becker and Pete Schroeder; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Peter Cooney)

U.S. government shutdown grinds on, Trump threatens emergency powers

U.S. President Donald Trump works at his desk in the Oval Office as he prepares to speak to reporters in the Rose Garden after a meeting with U.S. Congressional leaders about the government shutdown at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 4, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

By Richard Cowan and Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump and senior Democrats failed to strike a deal in talks on Friday to end a partial shutdown of the U.S. government as they again fought over Trump’s request for $5 billion to fund his signature wall on the Mexican border.

After Democratic congressional leaders turned Trump down at a meeting in the White House Situation Room, the Republican president threatened to take the controversial step of using emergency powers to build the wall without approval from Congress.

Trump is withholding his support for a bill that would fully fund the government until he secures the money for the wall. As a result around 800,000 public workers have been unpaid, with about a quarter of the federal government closed for two weeks.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said Democrats had told Trump during the meeting to end the shutdown. “He resisted,” Schumer said. “In fact, he said he’d keep the government closed for a very long period of time, months or even years.”

Trump confirmed that comment but painted a more positive picture of the meeting, the first since a new era of divided government began when Democrats took control of the House of Representatives on Thursday.

“We had a very, very productive meeting, and we’ve come a long way,” Trump said.

But raising the stakes in his tussle with the newly emboldened Democrats, Trump threatened extraordinary measures to build the wall, which he says is needed to stem the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs into the United States.

NATIONAL EMERGENCY?

Asked by a reporter whether he had considered declaring a national emergency to build the wall, Trump said: “Yes, I have … I may do it … we can call a national emergency and build it very quickly.”

He said he could declare a national emergency “because of the security of our country, absolutely.”

The U.S. Constitution assigns Congress the power over funding the federal government so Trump likely would face legal challenges if he tried to bypass Congress on financing the wall. Building a wall – and having Mexico pay for it – was one of Trump’s main promises when he ran for president in 2016.

Trump’s wall project is estimated to cost about $23 billion.

Democrats have called the wall immoral, ineffective and medieval.

Nancy Pelosi, the newly elected Democratic speaker of the House, said Friday’s meeting with Trump was “sometimes contentious” but that they agreed to continue talking.

“But we recognize on the Democratic side that we really cannot resolve this until we open up government and we made that very clear to the president,” she said.

Credit rating agency Moody’s says the shutdown will cause minimal U.S. economic and credit market disruption but there could be a more severe impact on financial markets and the broad economy if the closure is protracted.

A Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll last week showed that 50 percent of the public blame Trump for the shutdown and 7 percent blame Republican lawmakers, while 32 percent blame Democrats.

In a Dec. 11 meeting with Pelosi and Schumer, Trump said he would be “proud” to shut the government over the security issue and would not blame Democrats. He has since said they are responsible.

Administration officials and congressional staffers are set to continue meeting over the weekend to try to end the impasse.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters that the leaders and Trump had decided to designate staff to work over the weekend. He said Trump had named Vice President Mike Pence, senior aide Jared Kushner and Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen.

The partial shutdown is straining the country’s immigration system, worsening backlogs in courts and complicating hiring for employers.

Federal agencies such as the Justice Department, Commerce Department and departments of Agriculture, Labor, Interior and Treasury have been hit by the shutdown.

House Ways and Means Committee chair Richard Neal, a Democrat, asked the Internal Revenue Service in a letter on Friday to explain the possible effects of the shutdown on the upcoming tax filing season for millions of Americans.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey, Susan Cornwell, Tim Ahmann and Lisa Lambert; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Bill Trott and Rosalba O’Brien)

Trump, Democrats dig in over ending government shutdown

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters about border security in the Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 3, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

By Richard Cowan and Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump and congressional leaders gathered at the White House on Friday to try to end a 2-week-old partial U.S. government shutdown but all parties were entrenched over his demand for $5 billion to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

About 800,000 federal workers have been unpaid due to the closure of about a quarter of the federal government as Trump withholds his support for new funding until he secures the money for the wall that he promised to construct during his election campaign.

The wall, Trump has argued, is needed to stem the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs over the border. When he ran for president in 2016, Trump vowed Mexico would pay for the wall, which it has refused to do.

Democratic congressional leaders arrived at the White House for the meeting with Trump but it was unclear how much progress might be made.

It is the first showdown between Trump and Democrats since they took over the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday after victories in last November’s elections.

“The president isn’t going to back off,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters before the talks began.

The Senate on Friday adjourned until Tuesday afternoon in a sign that the shutdown would likely not end before then.

Ahead of the meeting, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sought to separate the issue of the wall and government funding and called on Trump and his fellow Republicans in the Senate to reopen agencies as border talks continue.

“The wall and the government shutdown really have nothing to do with each other,” Pelosi, who has rejected any funding for what she has called an “immoral” border wall, said at an event hosted by MSNBC.

About 800,000 federal employees have either been furloughed or are working without pay because of the shutdown.

It is showing signs of straining the country’s immigration system and has been blamed for worsening backlogs in courts and complicating hiring for employers.

Trump continued to promote the wall in tweets to keep the pressure on Democrats on Thursday even as they gained significant power with their takeover of the House at the start of a new Congress.

TRUMP LETTER

Trump sent a letter to all members of Congress on Friday “on the need to secure our borders,” the White House said.

“Absolutely critical to border security and national security is a wall or a physical barrier that prevents entry in the first place,” Trump wrote.

Late on Thursday, the House passed two Democratic bills to immediately reopen government agencies for varying lengths of time, despite a White House veto threat.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has rejected the House effort saying the president would not sign into law, although the Senate last month approved identical legislation.

“We’re in the same place … Any viable compromise will need to carry the endorsement of the president before it receives a vote in either house of Congress,” McConnell said, speaking on the Senate floor Friday morning.

But he may face pressure from within his caucus from vulnerable Republicans up for re-election in 2020.

“We should pass a continuing resolution to get the government back open. The Senate has done it last Congress, we should do it again today,” U.S. Senator Cory Gardner told The Hill on Thursday.

His colleague Susan Collins also called for the Senate to pass the funding bills, while several other Republicans urged an end to the shutdown, the Hill and New York Times reported.

Pelosi on Friday urged McConnell to bring the measures up for a vote. “The president can sign or not but he should never say, ‘I’m not even going to put it on the president’s desk,'” she told MSNBC, noting Congress can pass bills without Trump’s support.

Legislation can become law with a veto-proof majority of lawmakers’ support or if the president does not sign it or veto it within 10 days.

Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday suggested that in exchange for the wall, the White House could work with Democrats on so-called Dreamer immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children – an idea Trump had rejected.

“It’s being talked about,” Pence told Fox News.

Democrats back other border security measures aside from the wall, and their two-bill package passed Thursday includes $1.3 billion for border fencing and $300 million for other border security items such as technology and cameras.

In a Dec. 11 meeting with Pelosi and Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer, Trump said he would be “proud” to shut the government over the security issue and would not blame Democrats. He has since said they are responsible.

A Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll last week showed that 50 percent of the public blame Trump for the shutdown and 7 percent blame Republican lawmakers, against 32 percent who blame Democrats.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey, Susan Cornwell and Lisa Lambert; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Bill Trott)

White House calls Democratic plan to end shutdown ‘non-starter’

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Capitol is seen on the first day of a partial federal government shutdown in Washington, U.S., December 22, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

By Jeff Mason and Amanda Becker

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump invited Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress to the White House for a border security briefing on Wednesday, the 12th day of a partial U.S. government shutdown triggered by his demand for $5 billion in border wall funding.

Department of Homeland Security officials will brief the congressional leaders, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said, on the last day that Trump’s fellow Republicans will control both chambers of Congress.

The meeting is set for 3 p.m. (2000 GMT) in the White House Situation Room, generally used for high-level security concerns such as military planning.

Democrats take charge of the House of Representatives from Trump’s fellow Republicans when the new 2019-2020 Congress convenes on Thursday. Led by presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, they have scheduled votes on their first day in power on legislation that would end the shutdown without providing the wall funding Trump wants. Republicans retain control of the Senate.

“The Pelosi plan is a non-starter because it does not fund our homeland security or keep American families safe from human trafficking, drugs, and crime,” Sanders said in a statement late on Tuesday.

Roughly a quarter of the federal government and 800,000 federal employees are affected by a shutdown, which was caused by a lapse in funding for the agencies.

The shutdown, which began on Dec. 22, was precipitated by Trump’s demand as part of any federal funding measure for $5 billion to help build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border that was a centerpiece of his 2016 presidential campaign. The project’s total price tag is estimated at $23 billion.

It was unclear if Wednesday’s meeting, arranged by Trump on Tuesday, would lead to a breakthrough. Democrats oppose the wall and Trump’s funding demand.

Prospects for the two-part Democratic spending package that will be voted upon in the House appear grim in the Senate. The measure sets up the first major battle of the new Congress between House Democrats led by Pelosi and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell has said Senate Republicans will not approve a spending measure Trump does not support.

The visit by Pelosi and Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer would be their first to the White House since their sharp exchange with Trump in the Oval Office on Dec. 11 during which the president told them, “I am proud to shut down the government for border security.” He has since blamed Democrats for the shutdown.

The Democrats’ two-part package includes a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security at current levels through Feb. 8 and provide $1.3 billion for border fencing and $300 million for other border security items including technology and cameras.

The second part of the package would fund the other federal agencies that are now unfunded including the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, Transportation, Commerce and Justice, through Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year.

Trump has called the wall crucial to curbing illegal immigration and combating drug trafficking. Democrats disagree, with Pelosi calling the wall immoral, ineffective and expensive. Trump made the border wall a key part of his presidential campaign and said Mexico would pay for it. Mexico has refused.

If they spurn funding bills for departments unrelated to border security, Republicans could be seen as holding those agencies and hundreds of thousands of affected employees hostage to Trump’s desire for a wall, part of his hard-line immigration policies that appeal to his conservative political base.

(Reporting by Amanda Becker, Doina Chiacu and Jeff Mason; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Bill Trott)

Republican Senator Graham says Trump receptive to shutdown deal idea

Capitol Hill is seen as a partial U.S. government shutdown continues in Washington, U.S., December 30, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Young

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham said on Sunday he was optimistic that Republicans, Democrats and President Donald Trump could reach a deal to end a government shutdown that includes border wall funding and legal status for some illegal immigrants.

FILE PHOTO: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) waits for U.S. President Donald Trump to enter the room to speak about the "First Step Act" in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, U.S. November 14, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) waits for U.S. President Donald Trump to enter the room to speak about the “First Step Act” in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, U.S. November 14, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

Graham, a Republican, told reporters after meeting Trump for lunch at the White House that Trump was receptive to Graham’s idea of a deal that might provide work permits to so-called Dreamers, people brought illegally to the United States as children, in exchange for money for physical border barriers.

“The president was upbeat, he was in a very good mood, and I think he’s receptive to making a deal,” Graham said, adding that Trump found the potential Dreamer concession “interesting.”

But the senator said there would never be a government spending deal that did not include money for a wall or other physical barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border. The wall was one of the central promises of Trump’s presidential campaign.

“I don’t see Democrats giving us more money unless they get something. So, the one thing we talked about is making deals,” Graham said.

“After lunch I’ve never been more encouraged that if we can get people talking we can find our way out of this mess and that would include around $5 billion for border security, slash wall, slash fencing whatever you want to call it in areas that make sense,” he added.

Trump later made clear on Twitter that he regarded a wall as necessary.

“President and Mrs. Obama built/has a ten foot Wall around their D.C. mansion/compound. I agree, totally necessary for their safety and security,” Trump wrote. “The U.S. needs the same thing, slightly larger version!”

Earlier, on CNN’s “State of the Union” program, Graham floated the idea of giving Democrats a version of stalled legislation to protect Dreamers from deportation in exchange for wall funding.

The Trump administration in 2017 announced plans to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, begun under former President Barack Obama to shield Dreamers from deportation. But Trump’s DACA phase-out has been delayed by court rulings against it.

With the partial government shutdown in its ninth day on Sunday, some other lawmakers were less upbeat about prospects for a deal to restore spending authority.

Republican Senator Richard Shelby warned on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that negotiations were at an impasse and the shutdown “could last a long, long time.”

Democratic U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries said the country needed comprehensive immigration reform and border security.

“We are not willing to pay $2.5 billion or $5 billion and wasting taxpayer dollars on a ransom note because Donald Trump decided that he was going to shut down the government and hold the American people hostage,” Jeffries said on ABC.

Democrats take control of the U.S. House of Representatives this week, following November’s congressional elections.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner and David Lawder; Additional reporting by Christopher Bing and Doina Chiacu; Writing by David Lawder; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Peter Cooney)