President Trump softened expectations that he is close to declaring a national emergency to get the money he want to build the US-Mexico border wall as a 3-week impasse closing parts of the government continued Friday.
There are about 800-K federal employees who missed their 1st paychecks under the stoppage.
Lawmakers tried to reassure federal employees that Congress was aware of the financial hardship they are enduring. By a vote of 411-7, the House passed a bill requiring that all government workers receive retroactive pay after the partial shutdown ends. The Senate approved the bill unanimously Thursday. The president is expected to sign the legislation.
President Trump visited McAllen, TX, and the Rio Grande Thursday to highlight what he calls a crisis of drugs and crime along the border. He suggested that if he cannot reach an agreement with House Democrats on funding the border wall, he would declare a national emergency.
Speaking to state and local leaders Friday, President Trump said he was not ready to do that yet. He said lawmakers can also take that step, even though there is no indication they would.
The “easy solution is for me to call a national emergency … but I am not going to do it so fast,” President Trump said.
President Trump said White House lawyers had told him the action would withstand legal scrutiny “100%”
The wall was the central promise of President Trump’s winning campaign in Y 2016. Supporters have tried to convince him that an emergency declaration is the best option to end the shutdown and would give him political cover to reopen the government without caving on his pledge.
Senior aide Jared Kushner, who traveled with the president to Texas, is among those urging caution on the declaration.
The Trump Administration has taken steps to lay the groundwork should the President issue the declaration.
The White House has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to comb through its budget in search of money for the wall, including looking at $13.9-B in unspent disaster relief funds earmarked for areas including hurricane-damaged Puerto Rico, Texas and more than a dozen other states. That’s according to a congressional aide and administration official familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the request.
Defense Department officials had already been poring over data on more than $10-B in military construction projects to determine how much of it would be available for emergency spending this year.
It is not clear what a compromise between the White House and Congress might be. Efforts at negotiating a broader immigration deal involving immigrants brought to the country illegally as children collapsed with little progress.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R:SC) said that he did not “see a path in Congress” to end the shutdown, then stated later that enough was enough: “It is time for President Trump to use emergency powers to fund the construction of a border wall/barrier.”
VP Mike Pence visited the Washington HQ for US Customs and Border Protection and pledged that the administration will keep fighting for the border wall.
“Just as you fight every day to keep our nation safe, this president and this administration will keep fighting to build the wall and give you the resources and reforms you need to do your job,” VP Pence told several dozen unformed agents. “That’s my promise.”
The partial shutdown would set a record Saturday, stretching beyond the 21-Day closure that ended 6 January 1996, during President Bill Clinton’s administration.
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