U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday reiterated that he may declare a national emergency if Congress does not meet his demand for billions of dollars to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico frontier.
Trump was headed to McAllen, Texas, on the Mexican border in an attempt to win support for his wall a day after another acrimonious meeting with Democrats on funding for the barrier. A quarter of the federal government was shut down for the 20th day in the standoff.
Hundreds of thousands of federal employees are working without pay or staying home on furlough due to the shutdown, which will be the longest in U.S. history if still under way on Saturday. Trump is demanding that any legislation to end the partial closure must contain $5.7 billion for a border barrier.
As he prepared to leave the White House, Trump told reporters, “I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency. I’m not prepared to do that yet but if I have to I will … I may do it. I this doesn’t work out, probably I will do it. I would almost say definitely.”
If he declares an emergency in an attempt to circumvent Congress’s power over the national purse strings, Trump likely would try to redirect money from the Department of Defense toward his proposed wall. Democrats in control of the House of Representatives have refused to fund the wall as a part or shutdown-ending legislation.
Such a step likely would prompt an immediate legal challenge over constitutional powers from congressional Democrats. A subsequent court fight could be protracted, making room for the shutdown to be ended in the interim. The final outcome would then be left up to judges, not the president and Congress.
Critics say an emergency declaration would be illegal. Even some Republicans who want to build a wall have said they do not want money to taken from the military for it.
Trump’s plan to build a wall at the southern border – and have Mexico pay for it – was a central promise of his 2016 presidential campaign. He said last month he would be “proud” to shut the government down over the issue but he has since tried to blame the Democrats.
President Donald Trump is taking the shutdown battle to the U.S.-Mexico border, seeking to bolster his case for the border wall after negotiations with Democrats blew up over his funding demands.
Trump walked out of his meeting with congressional leaders — “I said bye-bye,” he tweeted soon after — as efforts to end the partial government shutdown fell into deeper disarray. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers now face lost paychecks on Friday.
During his stop Thursday in McAllen, Texas, Trump will visit a border patrol station for a roundtable on immigration and border security, and will get a security briefing on the border.
But Trump has expressed his own doubts that his appearance and remarks will change any minds, as he seeks $5.7 billion for the wall that has been his signature promise since his presidential campaign.
McAllen is located in the Rio Grande Valley, the busiest part of the border for illegal border crossings.