WASHINGTON — The dispute over the border wall and the partial government shutdown deepened Thursday as President Donald Trump threatened to declare a national emergency, a Republican proposal collapsed and Democrats refused to budge.
As the shutdown headed to become the longest in history on Saturday, Trump sent a signal that he expects it to continue another week or more by tweeting he canceled his trip to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum beginning Jan. 22.
Despite increasing pressure from demonstrations outside the Capitol by federal workers about to miss their first paycheck on Friday, neither side showed any sign of backing down since Trump abruptly walked out of a White House meeting with congressional leaders Wednesday.
As Trump left the White House for a trip to the southern border, he told reporters he would “like to do a deal through Congress,” but also said he could declare a national emergency if necessary to build a wall. “I may do it if this doesn't work out. I probably will do it,” he said.
And a proposal by a small group of Republican senators to end the stalemate with a deal to get Democrats’ support for funds for a wall in return for temporary protection for so-called Dreamers collapsed when Trump nixed it.
Vice President Mike Pence confirmed Trump had no interest in dealing with Dreamer immigrants in the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, often referred to as DACA, when he spoke Thursday with reporters.
“I think the president feels that we're waiting to hear from the Supreme Court about DACA," Pence said. "We're confident the Supreme Court will find DACA to have been unconstitutional.”
A broader deal on immigration might be possible then, but until then, Pence said, “No wall, no deal.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a leading member of the Republican group seeking a deal, responded to the death of the proposal by telling reporters, “I have never been more depressed about moving forward than right now. I just don’t see a pathway forward.”
He later tweeted, “Time for President @realDonaldTrump to use emergency powers to build Wall/Barrier. I hope it works.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who stood firm in her refusal to provide border wall funding, declined to say how Democrats would react, but she predicted, “The president will have problems on his own side of the aisle for exploiting the situation in a way that enhances his power.”
Pelosi has seen her ambitious agenda to reinforce the campaign message that helped Democrats gain control of the House overshadowed by Trump and the shutdown.
“I think he loves the distraction that this is from his other problems,” Pelosi said. “I don’t even know if the president wants the wall. I think he just wants the debate on the wall.”
The Democratic majority in the House on Thursday passed a bill to fund the departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, with 12 Republicans voting yes, and another to fund the Department of Agriculture, with 10 Republicans joining them.
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the Senate will not even consider those bills or the measure including funding for all the unfunded departments that the House passed last week, because he said the president has promised to veto them.
But the senators did agree on one thing: they approved a measure that ensures that the 800,000 federal employees who are furloughed or working without pay will get paid once the government reopens.