Trump threatens to extend partial government shutdown for years
President Trump on Friday threatened to keep roughly a quarter of the federal government closed for years amid a dispute over border-wall funding, the latest sign the president and congressional Democrats remain far apart on resolving the two-week-long shutdown.
Trump confirmed after a heated, closed-door meeting that he “absolutely” told Democrats the shutdown could last more than a year, which was first revealed by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) following the negotiation session inside the White House Situation Room.
“We told the president we needed the government open,” Schumer told reporters on the West Wing driveway after the meeting. “He resisted. In fact, he said he’d keep the government closed for a very long period of time, months or even years.”
Addressing the news media later in the Rose Garden, the president expressed hope that the shutdown would not last that long, citing what he believes is Democrats’ willingness to strike a deal.
Despite the Democrats’ description of the two-hour meeting as “contentious,” Trump called it “productive” and said he appointed a working group of top administration officials to continue talks with lawmakers through the weekend.
“I thought it was really a very, very good meeting. We’re all on the same path in terms of wanting to get government open,” the president said during a news conference that lasted roughly an hour.
But the president refused to back away from what he called his “very firm” demand for $5.6 billion in funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Democrats have repeatedly rejected that demand.
Trump also threatened to use emergency powers to build the wall, a move that would inflame tensions with Congress, where Democrats have taken control of the House, and raise legal questions about his executive authority.
“Yes, I have,” Trump said when asked if he is considering declaring a national emergency to start wall construction if he doesn’t receive funding from Congress. “We can do it. I haven’t done it. I may do it. I may do it.”
The government has been partially shut down since Dec. 22, when Trump backed away from a spending agreement that he was expected to sign into law, one that didn’t include wall funding.
Around 800,000 workers across more than half a dozen agencies are closer to missing their next paycheck because of the funding lapse, and government services and museums have begun to shutter.
In one of their first acts in the majority, Democrats on Thursday passed a spending package that would reopen the vast majority of the closed parts of government while funding the Department of Homeland Security, which enforces immigration laws, through Feb. 8 to buy more time for spending talks.
“We cannot resolve this until we open up government,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said after emerging from the White House on Friday.
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has refused to bring the House-passed measure to the floor for a vote, citing a veto threat from the White House.
Trump rejected Pelosi’s proposal to reopen most of the closed parts of government while wall talks continue, saying, “We won’t be opening until it’s solved.”