For many Americans, the only thing better than a government shutdown would be forcing all congressmen to go without pay, just like workaday government employees.
After Democratic congressional leaders refused Trump’s requests at a meeting in the White House Situation Room, the Republican president threatened to take the controversial step of declaring a national emergency and building the wall without congressional approval.
Trump is withholding his support for a bill that would fully fund the government until he secures money for the wall. As a result, around 800,000 public workers have been unpaid, with about a quarter of the federal government closed for two weeks.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said Democrats had told Trump during the meeting to end the shutdown. “He resisted,” Schumer said. “In fact, he said he’d keep the government closed for a very long period of time, months or even years.”
Raising the stakes in his tussle with the newly emboldened Democrats, Trump threatened extraordinary measures to build the wall, which he says is needed to stem the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs into the United States.
A reporter asked Trump whether he had considered declaring a national emergency to build the wall.
“Yes, I have. And I can do it if I want,” Trump said. “We can call a national emergency because of the security of our country … I may do it. But we can call a national emergency and build it very quickly. And it’s another way of doing it. But if we can do it through a negotiated process, we’re giving that a shot.”
A Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll last week showed that 50 percent of the public blames Trump for the shutdown and 7 percent blames Republican lawmakers, while 32 percent blames Democrats.
The partial shutdown is straining the country’s immigration system, worsening backlogs in courts and complicating hiring for employers.
Federal agencies such as the Justice Department, Commerce Department and departments of Agriculture, Labor, Interior and Treasury have been hit by the shutdown.
House Ways and Means Committee chairman Richard Neal, a Democrat, asked the Internal Revenue Service in a letter on Friday to explain the possible effects of the shutdown on the upcoming tax filing season for millions of Americans.