WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Monday he is “not looking” to declare a national emergency to secure $5.7 billion for a southern border wall, backing away from one of the few options his administration had been weighing to break the stalemate over border security funding and end the government shutdown.
On the 24th day of the federal government shutdown — the longest on record — Trump also shot down a proposal by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R- S.C.) to reopen the government temporarily while Trump and lawmakers hash out a deal on border wall funding.
Graham, appearing on Fox News Sunday, said he called the president to suggest Trump reopen the nearly dozen shuttered agencies and put back to work some 800,000 impacted federal workers for at least three weeks while continuing to negotiate a deal on the wall funding.
"That was a suggestion that Lindsey made, but I did reject it, yes,” Trump said speaking to reporters at the White House. “I'm not interested. . . . I want to get it solved. I don't want to just delay it. I want to get it solved."
The president said Monday he had the “absolute legal right” to declare a national emergency on the U.S. and Mexico border, but legal scholars and lawmakers have been split on the legality of using such a declaration to redirect federal funds from the military and hurricane disaster recovery efforts for construction of a wall. Members of the president’s own party in recent days also have urged the president to weigh all legislative options before acting unilaterally to build a wall .
When asked about the prospect of declaring a national emergency, Trump said: “I'm not looking to do that because this is too simple. The Democrats should say, 'We want border security. We have to build a wall, otherwise you can’t have border security.' And we should get on with our lives.”
Congressional Democrats have not budged from their position that no money be directed to Trump’s long-promised wall. They have offered $1.3 billion for other border security measures such as drones and fencing, but have said the wall itself would be an “ineffective” and “immoral” use of taxpayer dollars.
"I don't know if we're close on a deal,” Trump said before departing for New Orleans to address the American Farm Bureau Federation convention.
As of Monday, the president had no other meetings scheduled with lawmakers after he walked out on a meeting with congressional leaders last Wednesday. Trump abruptly left after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to accept Trump’s $5.7 billion request.
House Democrats, who now hold a majority in the chamber, passed a series of measures last week to reopen the government, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he will not schedule a vote on such measures unless they have Trump’s approval. On Monday, House Democrats announced plans to put forward two more bills for a vote this week — one would open the impacted agencies through Feb. 1, the other through Feb. 28.
Pelosi, responding to a series of tweets from Trump blaming Democrats for the shutdown, said in a tweet to Trump: “It’s time for you to stop standing in the way of reopening the government. Let the Senate vote!”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), in a Senate floor speech Monday, said Democrats were "happy to negotiate about the best way to secure our border, but we need to reopen the government first.
“We’re each for border security,” Schumer said. “There are different ways to do it, but everyone wants it . . . why shut down the government while we’re negotiating that?”
McConnell chided Democrats on Twitter for previously supporting bills that provided money for border fencing.
“The physical barriers at the border that Democrats supported yesterday have not somehow become a radical right-wing position today,” McConnell said. “Border security still matters. American families still deserve safety.”
As the shutdown drags into its fourth week, a Quinnipiac Poll released Monday found that 56 percent of those polled blamed Trump and Republicans for the shutdown, compared with 36 percent who said Democrats were responsible.