US President Donald Trump says he is willing to keep the government closed for a year or more unless Democrats agree to fund his border wall with Mexico.
Trump confirmed Friday he had made the threat during a meeting with Democratic leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, earlier in the day.
“Absolutely I said that,” Trump boasted to reporters, adding, “I don’t think it will. But I am prepared.”
“It’s very important that we have great border security,” he continued. “It will be over with sooner than people think. I will do whatever we have to do.”
Pelosi and Schumer described their meeting with Trump as contentious, saying they pleaded with him to reopen most of the government, while resolving the dispute over the wall, but he refused.
“He resisted,” said Schumer. “In fact, he said he’d keep the government closed for a very long period of time, months or even years.”
The president said the nearly 800,000 federal workers who are affected by the government shutdown were also supporting him, despite the fact that many of them were forced to work without pay or go on unpaid leave.
“Many of those people, most of those people, that really have not been and will not be getting their money in at this moment, those people in many cases are the biggest fan of what we’re doing,” he added.
The meeting, like the many others since the beginning of the shutdown on December 22, failed to produce Trump’s desired outcome.
The president has asked for $5.6 billion for the controversial wall, which he insists would stop illegal immigrants and drug traffickers from crossing the US border.
Democrats, however, say they won’t go higher than the current $1.3 billion level funding that the Department of Homeland Security receives for fencing and barrier repairs plus $300 million for cameras and other related technologies.
Asked at the White House press briefing whether he had given any thought to declaring a national emergency to build the wall, Trump said: “Yes, I have. … We can do it. I haven’t done it. I may do it.”
The Republican head of state has made it clear that he would not sign any bill to fully fund the government if it doesn’t include the money for the wall.
Pelosi said Thursday that Democrats in the lower chamber of Congress would refuse to give Trump funding for the wall project.
“We’re not doing a wall. It has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with a wall which is an immorality between countries. It’s an old way of thinking. It isn’t cost effective,” she told reporters.