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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 April 2019

Lindsey Graham urges Donald Trump to reopen government for a few weeks

Republican senator encouraged the president to continue negotiating with Democrats over border wall funding

US senator Lindsey Graham said Mr Trump wanted to reach a deal before agreeing to reopen government departments. AP
US senator Lindsey Graham said Mr Trump wanted to reach a deal before agreeing to reopen government departments. AP

A US Republican senator said he is encouraging President Donald Trump to reopen the government for several weeks to continue negotiating with Democrats about the US-Mexico border wall before Mr Trump declares a national emergency.

But that may be wishful thinking, given that senator Lindsey Graham also says Mr Trump still wants to reach a deal for the wall before agreeing to reopen federal government departments. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a leading Democratic negotiator, insisted that Mr Trump reopen the government first.

The weeks-old standoff about funding led to the partial government shutdown that hit day 23 on Sunday without an end in sight.

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US government shutdown over border wall becomes longest in history

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“Before he pulls the plug on the legislative option, and I think we’re almost there, I would urge him to open up the government for a short period of time, like three weeks, before he pulls the plug, [to] see if we can get a deal,” Mr Graham said. “If we can’t at the end of three weeks, all bets are off.”

Declaring a national emergency would allow the president to bypass Congress and tap various pots of unspent federal money to pay for the wall.

Mr Trump has kept Washington on edge over whether he would resort to such a move, citing what he says is a “crisis” of drug smuggling and the trafficking of women and children at the border. The president initially sounded as though such a move was imminent, but then pulled back. He has said several times since he first mentioned the idea in public earlier this month that he prefers to try to reach a deal with Congress.

Democrats oppose an emergency declaration but may be powerless to block it. Some Republicans are wary, too, fearing how a future Democratic president might use that authority. Such a move, should Mr Trump ultimately go that route, would almost certainly be challenged in the courts.

Another senator, Chris Coons, called Mr Graham’s idea to reopen the government a “great place to start”.

“I do think if we reopen the government, if the president ends this shutdown crisis, we have folks who can negotiate a responsible, modern investment in technology that will actually make us safer,” Mr Coons said.

Mr Trump insists the border cannot be secured without a wall.

Mr Graham said he thinks Mr Trump is willing to accept the $5.7 billion (Dh21bn) he wants for the wall, along with some immigration measures Democrats might find acceptable, such as helping those who were illegally brought to the US as children.

The president has expressed interest in a broader immigration overhaul, but says he first wants the Supreme Court to address the class of immigrants known as Dreamers – those brought to the US illegally before the age of 16. Ms Pelosi has shown no interest in accepting a wall – she has called it an “immorality” – in exchange for immigration fixes.

And, Mr Trump, who was holed up in the White House as snow blanketed Washington on Sunday, appeared to shoot down Mr Graham’s suggestion of a ‘wall plus’ deal, saying on Twitter that even Democrats do not want to make Dreamers part of the negotiations.

“The damage done to our Country from a badly broken Border – Drugs, Crime and so much that is bad – is far greater than a Shutdown, which the Dems can easily fix as soon as they come back to Washington!” Mr Trump said in a separate tweet.

The White House has been laying the groundwork for an emergency declaration, feared by members of both parties.

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, a Republican, said he would “hate to see” a declaration because then the wall would not be built, presumably because of legal challenges. Democrats voted in the past for border security and should again, he said.

“I actually want to see this wall get built,” Mr Johnson said. “I want to keep pressure on Democrats to actually come to the negotiating table in good faith and fund what they have supported in the past.”

But Mr Graham, who favours a presidential declaration, said the time for talk is running out.

“It’s the last option, not the first option, but we’re pretty close to that being the only option,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump’s disapproval rating has increased since the beginning of the ongoing government shutdown, according to a new poll.

The CNN poll published on Sunday found that Mr Trump’s disapproval rating is at 57 per cent, up five points from December. The ongoing partial government shutdown began on December 22.

CNN also found that his approval rating is at 37 per cent, roughly the same it was last month. Respondents also indicated that a majority of the public blames Mr Trump for the shutdown, rather than Democrats.

According to the poll, 55 per cent of respondents said Mr Trump is to blame for the shutdown and 32 per cent said Democrats are mostly to blame. Another nine per cent of respondents said both sides were to blame.

Updated: January 14, 2019 11:16 AM

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