WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump signaled Friday that a partial government shutdown now in its record-tying 21st day could drag on for a while as he said he will not move “fast” to declare a national emergency to access border wall funds.
The president told reporters during a border security event in the White House’s Cabinet Room that he has the “right” and legal authority to make the move, which would allow him to access Defense Department dollars and shift them to the construction of a border barrier. But he made clear he plans to continue to press Democrats to give in to his demands before he issues such a decree.
“I’m not going to do it so fast,” he said of an emergency declaration.
After House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., earlier Friday on the floor criticized House Majority Leader Steny B. Hoyer of Maryland and House leaders for sending members home rather than keeping them in Washington as the shutdown dragged on, Trump called on both chambers to “come back and vote.”
“We want Congress to do its job,” Trump said. “What we’re not looking to do — right now — is a national emergency.”
A few hours before the president made his one and only scheduled public appearance for the day, Hoyer responded to Scalise by saying: “The gentleman has a different concept of negotiating than I do. Somebody takes somebody that I care about hostage and says, ‘I want to negotiate.’ That’s not a negotiation. That’s a demand.”
But some members of Congress were pressing the president to get things rolling on what they call an emergency.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that he had met with the president on Friday and said there was no point in doing anything but the emergency declaration.
“Mr. President, declare a national emergency now. Build a wall now,” Graham said.