US President Donald Trump has threatened to declare a national emergency to build a border wall if he can't get congressional funding. Democrats said Trump was in need of "an intervention" from Senate Republicans.
White House officials and congressional staffers have emerged from talks to reopen the government without a breakthrough, but have said talks will continue on Sunday.
Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the talks to end the two-week-old partial government shutdown, said on Twitter that Saturday’s two-hour session was "productive," although they were unable to break the deadlock.
Senior Trump administration officials, along with Democratic congressional staffers, are set to return for a third day of talks on Sunday.
Discussions have been at an impasse over President Donald Trump’s demands for $5.6 billion (€4.9 billion) in border security to fulfill his promise to build a wall on the US-Mexico border and increase border security, two main goals of his administration.
Trump did not attend the meeting; instead, he spent the morning on social media tweeting about border security.
Both sides of the political spectrum hurled accusations following the talks. The White House said funding had not been discussed in-depth, while Democrats familiar with the meeting told The Associated Press news agency that the White House position was "untenable."
On Friday, Trump said talks with Democrats had been "productive," but Democrats described them to the press as "somewhat contentious." The president told Democrats he could keep the government partially shuttered for "months or even years" over the wall funding.
"I hope it doesn't go on even beyond a few more days," Trump said, but added: "We won't be opening until it's solved."
"I don't call it a shutdown. I call it doing what you have to do for the benefit and the safety of our country," he added.
Trump threatens 'national emergency'
Trump told reporters that, while official ports of entry were strong, many miles of unprotected border existed, where drug and human traffickers could enter the US.
The "crisis" at the border with Mexico could only be solved with the construction of a solid concrete or steel structure to close off these open areas, the president said. Trump emphasized this message with a video on his Twitter account, showing images of migrants throwing rocks at the border and tear gas flying, with the words "crime, drugs, lawlessness."
Ultimately, Trump said he could officially declare a national emergency to build a border wall if he did not win the fight with Democrats, though he said he wanted to try to negotiate with Congress first.
"I can do it if I want. We can call a national emergency. I may do it," Trump told reporters on Friday.
On the subject of federal employees working without pay, the president said those workers would want him to "keep going" on his fight for the wall. Regarding their financial safety net, the president concluded that "the safety net is going to be having a strong border because we're going to be safe."
Pelosi pressures the Senate
For their part, the new Democratic House of Representatives passed legislation Thursday night to reopen the government, without Trump's proposed wall funding. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not consider the bill.
"Any viable compromise will need to carry the endorsement of the president before it receives a vote," McConnell said.
In a television appearance Friday night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blamed Senate Republicans for enabling the president.
"There's little excuse for one chamber of Congress refusing to do its job and simply giving power over to the president," Pelosi tweeted later.
Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer echoed Pelosi's call, warning that if McConnell and Senate Republicans do not act, "Trump can keep the government shut down for a long time."
"The president needs an intervention," Schumer said. "And Senate Republicans are just the right ones to intervene," he concluded.
jlw, jcg/cmk (AFP, AP)