US President Donald Trump threatened last week to declare a national emergency that would allow him to order construction of a border wall with Mexico without Congressional approval of the needed funds.
“I can do it if I want,” Trump told a press conference when asked about the possibility of starting construction on the wall without a go-ahead from Congress, due to the Democrats’ refusal to approve its financing.
The president made the statement to reporters at the White House after meeting with the democratic leaders of Congress to discuss the partial government shutdown, which has now gone on for two weeks and has a fourth of the government paralyzed.
“We can call a national emergency and build it very quickly…I haven’t done it. I may do it. If we can do it through the negotiating process, we’re giving that a shot,” Trump said.
The president considered the idea of building a barrier of “artistically designed steel slats” as an alternative to a cement wall, though he gave no details about that possibility.
He indicated there is an immediate need for $5.6 billion for the wall because “we’re not talking about games, we’re talking about national security.”
The government has been in a partial shutdown since last Dec. 22 because negotiations between Republicans and Democrats in Congress remain blocked by Trump‘s demand that the budget proposal include an allotment of over $5 billion to finance the border wall.
The paralysis of the administration affects 10 government agencies including Transportation and Justice, along with dozens of national parks, which are popular tourist attractions.
It also affects some 800,000 of the 2.1 million federal employees, who will not be paid as long as the US government continues its shutdown and who rely on the approval of a new federal budget.