(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump sees the declaration of a national emergency to fund the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border as a last resort and still hopes to make a deal with Democrats to reopen the federal government, a top Republican senator said.
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who has called for Trump to invoke emergency authority, said on “Fox News Sunday” that he’d spoken with Trump earlier in the day. Another Republican, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Trump is “willing to meet in the middle” to end a partial U.S. government shutdown, now in its 23rd day.
The lawmakers didn’t indicate that Trump had any new offers to end the shutdown, and Representative Steve Scalise, the House Republican whip, slammed Democrats for what he said was not putting new proposals on the table.
Meanwhile, Democrats remained resolute that Trump and Republican lawmakers should end the shutdown before returning to the debate over how to best secure U.S. borders and reform immigration laws.
“More border security -- let’s have at it,” Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “But while we’re having that debate, let’s reopen the government.
Trump sent a series of tweets on the shutdown Sunday morning, including one that returned to an original theme of his 2016 presidential campaign: that many immigrants are criminals. Building a wall, Trump said, “will bring down the crime rate throughout the entire Country!”
About 800,000 federal workers missed their pay for the first time Friday, as impacts spread from the stoppage that began on Dec. 22. Functions not happening include some routine food inspections, timely release of market-moving agriculture data, and U.S. reviews needed for initial public offerings of stocks.
Democrats and the president remain at loggerheads. Party leaders say they won’t agree to fund any kind of wall or barrier between the U.S. and Mexico, and Trump insists he won’t agree to reopen the government until the wall is funded.
Trump said on Fox News on Saturday night that he has an “absolute right to call a national emergency” over border security. On Friday, though, he said he wasn’t rushing to use that option -- which would be challenged in court and, if not overturned, establish a precedent expanding the power of future presidents who could include Democrats.
Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said on ABC’s “This Week” that “one phone call” from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could get the ball rolling to reopen the government.
A Washington Post/ABC poll on Sunday showed 53 percent of respondents put Trump and Congressional Republicans at fault for the extended government closure, while 29 percent blame Democrats. Two-thirds of Republicans surveyed would support a move by Trump to declare an emergency to build a border wall, though 66 percent of all respondents said they oppose it. Separately, a CNN poll showed 56 percent of Americans oppose construction of Trump’s hoped-for border wall.
In that vein, Durbin said the shutdown will end “when the Senate Republicans say, ’We’ve had enough. We’re not going to stand here and be blamed for this. We believe the government should be opened. Once the president realizes he’s lost the Senate Republicans, we can roll up our sleeves, open the government and get down to business.”
As the shutdown drags on, each side has blamed the other. The White House has contended that Democrats are refusing to negotiate, while Democrats accuse Trump of forcing government workers to go unpaid as leverage to get $5.7 billion for a wall that voters don’t want.
The shutdown on Saturday became the longest U.S. government closure of the modern era, exceeding the 1995-1996 funding lapse, when Democrat Bill Clinton was president and Newt Gingrich was speaker of the House.
Transportation Security Administration workers have gone without pay during the shutdown and some have responded by calling in sick. Miami International Airport on Saturday closed its least-used concourse due to a shortage of TSA officers, according to the Miami Herald. The proportion of TSA workers on unscheduled leave on Saturday was 5.6 percent, compared with 3.3 percent on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, TSA spokesman Michael Bilello said in a tweet.
(Updates with Trump tweet in sixth paragraph.)
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