US President Donald Trump said Sunday his team of negotiators had a productive meeting at the White House with representatives of top congressional Democrats to try to end a partial government shutdown.
Trump announced that the negotiations resulted in an agreement to use steel rather than concrete to construct a barrier on the US-Mexico border.
“It is both stronger & less obtrusive. Good solution, and made in the U.S.A.” Trump tweeted.
He said the decision to build the barrier out of steel was a concession.
“They don’t like concrete so we’ll give them steel,” he told reporters outside the White House.
Trump has stood firm on his demand that Congress provide 5.6 billion dollars in funding for a wall on the US-Mexico border to bolster security and help control illegal immigration, human trafficking and the flow of illegal drugs.
The funding demand has put him at odds with Democrats, who say 5.6 billion dollars is too much and a wall is applying an old-fashioned solution that won’t fix the problem.
The impasse caused a partial government shutdown which began December 21 after the two sides dug in their heels, leaving funding bills for about one-quarter of the US government hanging.
Several hundred thousand government employees are on furlough without pay, while others are working but not receiving pay checks. Among the departments affected are those that oversee transportation, agriculture, commerce, justice, homeland security and state.
Trump is “committed to securing the border, building the wall, & working to reopen our government,” Vice President Mike Pence tweeted amid ongoing talks with aides of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Neither of the Democrats tweeted or issued any statements Sunday, but Pelosi commented about Trump’s demeanour in an interview broadcast early Sunday.
“The impression you get from the president is that he would like to not only close government, build a wall, but also abolish Congress so the only voice that mattered was his own,” she said on CBS.
She said the country has a problem if Trump is “against governance” and doesn’t care whether people’s needs are met or that public employees are paid.
Pelosi and other Democrats have said spending bills to reopen the government should be allowed to pass and then the White House and Congress can haggle out the details on border security.
Democrats have urged Trump to support passage of legislation funding the government immediately before taking time to negotiate border security over the next few weeks.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Trump wouldn’t agree to that because there have been too many broken promises in the past to fix border security.
She said the president is prepared to do what it takes to protect the borders, even letting the shutdown continue for months or years or declare a national emergency.
Trump earlier Sunday renewed his threat to declare a national emergency over border security. He said he may decide a national emergency exists “depending on what happens over the next few days,” indicating the ongoing talks could last into mid-week.