Donald Trump threatens US government shutdown could last ‘months or even years’, as talks with Democrats fail again
- Donald Trump says he might declare a national emergency to have his border wall built, if Democrats continue to refuse to provide US$5 billion in funding
US President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders failed to strike a deal in sometimes combative talks on Friday to end a partial shutdown of the US government.
After fighting to no avail over his request for US$5 billion to fund his signature wall on the Mexican border, Trump said he was prepared to keep the government shut for “months or even years”.
Administration officials, led by Vice-President Mike Pence, and congressional staffers are to meet during the weekend to try to end the impasse.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that Democrats had told Trump during a meeting in the White House Situation Room to end the shutdown, which began two weeks ago. “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 on Thursday when Democrats took control of the House of Representatives.
“Absolutely, I said that. I don’t think it will but I am prepared,” Trump told reporters. “I hope it doesn’t go on even beyond a few more days. It really could open very quickly.
“We had a very, very productive meeting, and we’ve come a long way,” Trump said.
Trump also said he might declare a national emergency to have the wall built.
About 800,000 federal workers have been unpaid due to the closure of about a quarter of the federal government for the past two weeks as Trump withholds his support for a bill that would fully fund the government until he secures the money for the wall.
The partial shutdown is, among other things, showing signs of straining the country’s immigration system and has been blamed for worsening backlogs in courts and complicating hiring for employers.
Trump made the wall – a project estimated to cost about US$23 billion – a key campaign promise in 2016, saying that Mexico would pay for it and arguing that it was needed to combat illegal immigration and drug trafficking.
Mexico has rejected the idea of paying for the wall.
Democrats have called the wall immoral, ineffective and medieval.
Nancy Pelosi, the newly elected Democratic House speaker, said that Friday’s meeting was rocky at points.
“We just completed a lengthy and sometimes contentious conversation with the president,” she told reporters.
Pelosi said the two sides agreed to continue talking.
“But we recognise 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 said that the shutdown would cause minimal US economic and credit market disruption but that 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 per cent of the public blame Trump for the shutdown and 7 per cent blame Republican lawmakers, while 32 per cent blame Democrats.