US President Donald Trump says he plans to call the heads of U.S. Steel and other steel companies to come up with a new design for the barrier he’s insisting must be built along the southern border.
That’s despite the fact that his administration has already spent millions constructing wall prototypes near the border in San Diego.
Mr Trump had once vowed to build a concrete border wall, but now says the barrier will be made of steel slats.
He told reporters as he departed the White House for meetings at Camp David for meetings about border security that he’ll be asking the companies to design “a beautiful steel product” and “we’ll use that as our barrier.” Mr Trump’s demand for billions for the barrier has forced a partial government shutdown that is now in its third week.
Mr Trump also told reporters “Yes I can relate” to the hundreds of thousands of federal workers who aren’t being paid during the shutdown.
A day earlier, he had tweeted he didn’t care that “most of the workers not getting paid are Democrats.”
Mr Trump said he’s still mulling over declaring a national emergency to try to circumvent Congress to get the wall built.
“We have to build the wall,” Mr Trump told reporters as he left the White House for the Camp David presidential retreat.
“It’s about safety, it’s about security for our country,” he said. “We have no choice.”
An impasse with politicians over funding for the border wall has partially shut down the federal government since December 22.
Talks aimed at ending the shutdown were to continue Sunday, after discussions a day earlier between Vice President Mike Pence and representatives of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, the top two Democrats in Congress, made little headway.
Democrats, who now control the House of Representatives, seem in no mood to make concessions to the president on a border wall Ms Pelosi has described as an “immorality.”
But Mr Trump warned: “This shutdown could end tomorrow and it could also go on for a long time. It really depends on the Democrats.”
Both Democrats and Republicans have attempted to pin the blame for the shutdown on the other side.
Building a wall along the 3200-kilometre US-Mexico border was a central plank in the 2016 election campaign of Mr Trump, who has sought to equate immigrants with crime, drugs and gangs.