Donald Trump threatens national emergency as US shutdown enters third week
Over 800,000 federal employees will not receive their paychecks tomorrow
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. He headed to the US-Mexico border to draw further attention to his case after negotiations with lawmakers blew up.
As the US shutdown enters its third week and is on its way to becoming the longest crisis of its kind in the US, Mr Trump was scheduled to arrive to the US-Mexico border on Thursday afternoon. The visit is meant to shore up support for his plan to get Congress to fund a border wall, something that Democrats have refused to do, leading to the current impasse.
But Mr Trump is now mulling a second option if negotiations with Congress continue to falter. In what would be a unilateral and controversial move, the president could declare a national emergency, allowing funds from the Defense Department to be allocated toward building the wall. The White House is currently asking for $5.7 billion for the project.
"I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency. The lawyers have so advised me. I'm not prepared not to do that yet, but if I have to, I will. I have no doubt about it. I will,” Mr Trump told reporters ahead of his flight to Texas.
The order would come if negotiations reach nowhere with Congress. On Thursday, Mr Trump abruptly left a negotiating session with Congressional leaders after they disagreed with his initial terms. “I said bye bye” he tweeted later.
But time may not necessarily be on Mr Trump’s side. There are already cracks within his own party over ending the shutdown without funding for the wall. Moderate Republican Senators such as Susan Collins, Cory Gardner and Lisa Murkoski are signaling willingness to vote for a bill that reopens the government without funding any kind of security barrier.
The economic impact will also rise on Friday. NBC reported that as many as 800,000 federal employees will not receive their paychecks, and national parks are filled with trash, while an increasing number of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees are calling in sick. At the State Department, media operations and outreach has also been affected. Few officials who head regional desks including Lebanon have been furloughed The National has learned. Even the State Department website is alerting users that its updates would be limited due to “a lapse in operations.”
There are no negotiations planned today or tomorrow between Mr Trump and Congress. A poll by Politico and Morning Consult showed 47 per cent of voters blame Mr Trump for the shutdown, while 33 per cent blame Democrats in Congress. But the support for the wall among his own party standing at 79 per cent in a recent CBS poll could be buoying Mr Trump, and could prompt him to declare national emergency and fulfill one of his key campaign promises.
Updated: January 10, 2019 10:38 PM