Donald Trump said he would “almost definitely” declare a national emergency if he did not get results from his trip to the United States’ southern border on day 20 of the partial government shutdown.
The President is visiting McAllen, Texas on the US-Mexico border in an effort to gain support for his claim that only a reinforced wall can solve the immigration crisis there. McAllen is located in the Rio Grande Valley, the busiest part of the border for illegal border crossings.
“If this doesn’t work out, probably I will do it, I would almost say definitely,” he told journalists as he left the White House.
“We want a secure country,” he said. “The only way you have a strong border is you have a wall or steel barrier.”
He reiterated that he had the “absolute right” to declare a state of emergency, which could see defence department resources used to the build the wall — although this is almost certain to face a huge court challenge.
“If we don’t make a deal, I would say it would be very surprising to me that I would not declare a national emergency and just fund it through the various mechanisms,” added the President.
Neither side of politics will budge from their positions as America struggles to function with nine of 15 government departments closed and 800,000 federal workers on leave without pay or working without pay.
Mr Trump wants $US5.7 billion ($A8 billion) funding for the wall included in new funding bills for government departments, but Democrats are only willing to approve $US1.3 billion ($A1.8 billion) for border security.
The President is hoping he will be able to drum up support for his plans for a wall as he visits a border patrol station for a roundtable on immigration and border security and receives a security briefing on the border.
His televised national address on Tuesday and dramatic storm-out from talks with Democrats on Wednesday have all so far failed to resolve the impasse.
Mr Trump stormed out of his meeting with congressional leaders on Wednesday, calling his third set of talks with House speaker Nancy Pelosi and senate minority leader Chuck Schumer “a total waste of time.”
The White House meeting in the Situation Room ended after just 14 minutes. Democrats said they asked Mr Trump to re-open the government but that he told them if he did, they would not give him money for the wall.
Republicans said Mr Trump posed a direct question to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: If he opened the government, would she fund the wall? She said no.
Senate Democratic leader Mr Schumer said the President slammed his hand on the table, but Republicans said Mr Trump, who handed out candy at the start of the meeting, did not raise his voice and there was no table pounding.
The Democrats see the idea of the long, impenetrable wall as ineffective and even immoral, but are willing to provide enough funds for a fence and increased surveillance.
Mr Trump sees his wall — a key campaign promise — as an absolute necessity to stop what he calls a crisis of illegal immigration, drug-smuggling and human trafficking at the border.
Mr Trump attempted to soothe jittery Republicans earlier on Wednesday, leaving a lunch boasting of “a very, very unified party,” but GOP senators have been publicly uneasy as the standoff disrupts the economy.
Several have already voted with Democrats to pass bills to reopen various parts of the government as border wall negotiations drag on.
During the lunch, Mr Trump discussed the possibility of an immigration compromise with Democrats to protect some immigrants from deportation but provided no clear strategy or timeline for resolving the standoff, according to senators in the private session.
GOP unity was tested further when the House passed a bipartisan spending bill, 240-188, to reopen one shuttered department, the Treasury, to ensure that tax refunds and other financial services continue.
Eight Republicans joined Democrats in voting, defying the plea to stick with the White House. There was growing concern about the toll the shutdown is taking on everyday Americans, including disruptions in payments to farmers and manufacturers and trouble for home buyers seeking government-backed mortgage loans — “serious stuff,” according to Senate Republican John Thune of South Dakota.
Some Republicans were concerned about the administration’s talk of possibly declaring a national emergency, seeing that as an unprecedented claim on the right of Congress to allocate funding except in the most dire circumstances.
“I prefer that we get this resolved the old-fashioned way,” Mr Thune said.
Ms Pelosi warned that the effects of hundreds of thousands of lost pay cheques this Friday would begin to have an impact across the economy.
“The President could end the Trump shutdown and re-open the government today, and he should,” she said.
On Tuesday night, speaking to the nation from the Oval Office for the first time, Mr Trump argued that the wall was needed to resolve a security and humanitarian “crisis.”
He asked: “How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?” Democrats accused him of appealing to “fear, not facts” and manufacturing a border crisis for political gain.
In an off-the-record lunch with television anchors ahead of his speech, Mr Trump suggested his aides had pushed him to give the address and travel to the border and that he personally did not believe either would make a difference, according to two people familiar with the meeting.
But one person said it was unclear whether the President was serious or joking.