The war between US President Donald Trump and the House Democrats shows no signs of slowing down.
While the partial shutdown has come to an end, Mr Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have continued trading swipes over the funding for a $US5.7 billion wall on the US-Mexico border.
Mr Trump is continuing to ratchet up his demands on the long-stalled wall, sending mixed messages in which he alternately hardened his wall demand, but also suggested repairing existing fencing is a big part of his plan.
Last month, he referred to it as a “slate steel barrier”.
A design of our Steel Slat Barrier which is totally effective while at the same time beautiful! pic.twitter.com/sGltXh0cu9
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 21, 2018
But yesterday, Mr Trump emphatically tweeted the barrier should be referred to as a “wall” rather than a “physical barrier”.
Lets just call them WALLS from now on and stop playing political games! A WALL is a WALL!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 31, 2019
Some critics suggest that one word — and the technicalities surrounding it — could launch the US into another shutdown, or worse.
HOW A SYMBOL TURNED INTO $5.7 BILLION
The wall wasn’t always a concrete part of Mr Trump’s presidency.
Last month, his campaign advisers admitted the border wall was originally just a “metaphor” for border security.
Their message was — at its conception — the infamous “wall” was not a literal 3000-kilometre steel rampart across the length of the US-Mexico border, but rather a memory trick to remind the then-Republican candidate to rail against immigrants in his campaign speeches.
According to The New York Times, it was invented “as a mnemonic device of sorts” to “make sure their candidate — who hated reading from a script but loved boasting about himself and his talents as a builder — would remember to talk about immigration”.
“How do we get him to continue to talk about immigration?” Sam Nunberg, one of Mr Trump’s early political advisers, recalled telling Roger J. Stone Jr., another adviser. “We’re going to get him to talk about he’s going to build a wall,” the Times wrote.
But the so-called metaphor worked a little too well — it became a staple of Mr Trump’s presidency, and was the centre of the longest partial government shutdown in US history.
Now, it’s the one thing that threatens to spark another one.
The definition of what the President actually wants built keeps shifting, according to a recent Times analysis.
At its conception, Mr Trump commissioned eight different prototypes of wall designs of varying heights and materials. Some were concrete, some were steel. One was five-and-a-half metres tall. Another was nine metres tall.
The price tag — which currently stands at $US5.7 billion — has also shifted widely, from $US4 billion to $US20 billion.
A recent analysis in The Washington Post said Mr Trump’s wall would cost a total of $US58 billion, almost 12 times more than the President is currently requesting from the Democrats.
This was based on a ‘Send A Brick’ campaign launched by the Trump administration, where each “brick” cost $US20.20.
In the past Democrats, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, have supported “fencing” along the southern border to keep out “pedestrians”.
Earlier this month, Mr Trump said he didn’t care what the barrier was called, as long as it was built.
“They can name it whatever,” Mr Trump said of the Democrats earlier this month. “They can name it ‘Peaches’. This is where I ask the Democrats to come back to Washington and to vote for money for the wall, the barrier, whatever you want to call it, it’s OK with me.”
Ms Pelosi has doubled down on her stance against providing $US5.7 billion for the wall.
“There’s not going to be any wall money in the legislation,” she said.
Mr Trump responded: “If there’s no wall it doesn’t work. She’s just playing games. If there’s no wall it doesn’t work.”
WHAT’S NEXT IF TRUMP DOESN’T GET HIS WALL?
As tensions continue to boil between Mr Trump and Ms Pelosi, critics have warned we may see another partial government shutdown — or worse.
When Mr Trump folded on the shutdown, he agreed to reopen government until February 15, giving politicians more time to craft a bipartisan border security compromise.
If there’s no deal by then, Mr Trump has threatened to revive the shutdown or declare a national emergency, which he claims would let him shift billions from unrelated military construction projects to erecting his wall.
He criticised Democrats’ negotiating stance so far, telling reporters in the Oval Office Ms Pelosi is “just playing games” and saying GOP bargainers are “wasting their time.” Democrats remain united against those tactics.
Republican opposition seems nearly as strong, and GOP leaders are becoming increasingly assertive about publicly telegraphing those feelings to Mr Trump.
According to a CNN analysis, the war between the pair is more likely to result in a national emergency, particularly following his surge in unpopularity during the shutdown.
“Given the political hit Trump took on the recently concluded shutdown — both in terms of his poll numbers and from elected officials within the GOP — it’s very hard for me to see him triggering a second shutdown in the middle of next week,” CNN editor-at-large Chris Cillizza wrote.
“Which would leave him with only one option: Say that the border represents a national emergency, a declaration that would allow Trump to take from money previously allocated to other departments and use it to fund his border wall.”
The President has the power to declare a national emergency, but by definition it refers to any occasion in which “federal assistance is needed to supplement state and local efforts and capabilities to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in any part of the United States”.
With Democrats controlling the Lower House, the move would provide some fierce reaction from Mr Trump’s opponents, which could bring about a constitutional crisis.
— with wires