Could another government shutdown be looming? President Donald Trump seemed to think as much during an interview with The Wall Street Journal in which he said the chances were better than not that Congress won’t reach an acceptable agreement on border wall funding.
The president’s remarks, published Sunday, also raise the possibility that the White House could issue a national emergency declaration to fund the wall — something that Trump and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders have hinted at in tweets.
In the interview, Trump said he likely wouldn’t be willing to accept less than the $5.7 billion in funding the White House was asking for during the shutdown, seeming to recommit to a strong stance on the wall.
“I doubt it,” the president said when asked about going lower than that number in round two of negotiations. “I have to do it right.”
Trump had previously stuck to the $5.7 billion when he floated an offer to end the shutdown with certain inducements to Democrats on immigration, a proposal House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called a “non-starter.”
The negotiations on a deal regarding border security funding are now in the hands of 17 members of the Appropriations Committees of the House and Senate. However, the president didn’t express much hope they could reach a deal before the temporary funding deal runs out on Feb. 15.
“I personally think it’s less than 50-50, but you have a lot of very good people on that board,” Trump said.
The president also indicated he wouldn’t accept “any deal that trades wall money for a wider immigration overhaul,” The Journal reported.
Specifically asked about a deal that would grant citizenship to so-called “Dreamers” — recipients of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allowed individuals brought illegally to the country when they were under 18 to stay and work in the United States — in exchange for border wall money would fly, Trump said, “I doubt it.”
“That’s a separate subject to be taken up at a separate time,” Trump said.
In the previous deal the president had floated, DACA recipients would be offered three-year extensions while Congress sorted the issue out.
In terms of the possibility of another shutdown, Trump said it was “certainly an option.” He also said he could invoke emergency powers if a deal on a wall couldn’t be reached.
The president already seemed to be trending in that direction with a tweet last week in which he said “if no deal is done, it’s off to the races!”
I wish people would read or listen to my words on the Border Wall. This was in no way a concession. It was taking care of millions of people who were getting badly hurt by the Shutdown with the understanding that in 21 days, if no deal is done, it’s off to the races!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 26, 2019
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders made this clearer, warning that “(t)he only outstanding question is whether the Democrats want something or nothing.
In 21 days President @realDonaldTrump is moving forward building the wall with or without the Democrats. The only outstanding question is whether the Democrats want something or nothing https://t.co/dMaDfBOIuT
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) January 26, 2019
Democratic leadership has remained steadfast on the issue of funding the wall, meanwhile.
“Have I not been clear on a wall?” Pelosi said Friday. “I’ve been very clear on the wall.”
(And while what’s put out for public consumption is not always what makes its way into public policy, that’s about as unequivocal as it gets.)
As for the president, he seemed to indicate that whatever Congress sent him had to include some form of wall.
“I have to see what it is,” Trump said. “As long as it can stop criminals, gangs, human trafficking and drugs, I’m open to anything. But the only thing that will work is a very strong form of physical barrier.”
Of course, the president’s already caved once on this account, which seems to have publicly emboldened Pelosi’s anti-wall rhetoric as opposed to getting her to urge some sort of compromise before Feb. 15. It’s also let down both the Trump base and rattled other conservatives.
That being said, “I have to do it right” is about as encouraging a statement as you could probably get from the president in an interview like this.
Getting it right involves just that — getting a physical barrier, particularly in the most vulnerable places along the southern border. If Congress can’t get things in order before Feb. 15, there are only two options: another government shutdown, or Trump declaring an emergency.
Neither should be palatable to Democrats, but either way, they’re going to be responsible.
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