US President Donald Trump threatened on Thursday to declare a national emergency to circumvent Congress if he can’t reach a deal with Democrats to fund his promised border wall, which has been at the centre of an ongoing partial government shutdown.
Trump flew to the Texas border with Mexico to try to bolster his case that the country is facing a crisis which can only be solved by spending billions of dollars to construct a wall. “We can declare a national emergency. We shouldn’t have to,” Trump said. “This is just common sense.”
His trip to the border town of McAllen, Texas, came on the 20th day of the shutdown, which has left some 800 000 Americans out of work or working without pay.
Prior to the shutdown, Trump said he would be “proud” to shut the government down over the issue but has since blamed Democrats.
He also has been considering whether to declare a national emergency and use it to circumvent Congress by building the wall with money allocated for the Department of Defence. On Thursday, Trump said it would be “very surprising” for him not to declare a national emergency if he can’t make a deal with Democrats.
“I’m not prepared to do that yet, but if I have to, I will,” Trump told reporters. “We’re either going to have a win – make a compromise – because I think a compromise is a win for everybody – or I will declare a national emergency,” he said.
It’s not clear what a compromise would entail, as Trump has so far refused to give up on his demand for $5.7bn in border wall funding, and if he were to go through with the threat to declare a national emergency, it would likely be challenged in the courts. Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, refuse to approve the funding, saying a border wall is ineffective, expensive and immoral. They have instead said they will allocate more than $1.3bn for border security measures that don’t include a wall.
On Thursday the Democrat-controlled House passed two bills that would reopen the departments of Agriculture, Transportation and other agencies that have been largely shuttered for nearly three weeks. Twelve republicans voted with them on the transportation bill, and 10 on the one to open Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made clear, however, that he will not allow that chamber to vote on any measure that does not include wall funding.
McAllen is located in the Rio Grande Valley, the busiest part of the border where individuals cross between official ports of entry. Trump travelled there with the state’s two US senators, Republicans John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.
Signaling he’s ready to maintain the game of brinksmanship, Trump wrote on Twitter on arrival in Texas that he will scrap a visit to the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, which runs from January 21-25.