Trump, Still Hoping for a Shutdown Solution, Keeps Emergency Powers in His Back Pocket

President also confirmed he'll sign a bill to give back pay to government workers impacted by the partial government closure

Image Credit: Shutterstock & LOREN ELLIOTT/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump said on Friday that is is still holding out hope for a solution to end the shutdown but that he will declare a state of emergency if necessary.

“It’s the easy way out but Congress should do this,” Trump said.

“This is too simple. It’s too basic,” he added. “Congress should do this. If they can’t do it, if at some point they just can’t do it, this is a 15-minute meeting. If they can’t do it, I will declare a national emergency. I have the absolute right to do it.”

Trump has been fighting to secure funding for a security wall along the southern border to curtail illegal immigration.

But that debate led to a partial government shutdown that is going on three weeks now with no end in sight.

Trump said during a roundtable discussion that he’s still hoping he won’t have to declare a state of emergency to get the border wall.

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Related: Trump Walks Out of Gov’t Shutdown Meeting with Dems

Trump has threatened to veto spending bills that don’t include $5.7 billion to fund his proposed border wall.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have resisted providing any funding for the wall. The stalemate is what led both sides to the government shutdown on December 22.

“This is something that everyone should be able to easily do,” Trump said on Friday. “This is something that the Democrats should do. And I don’t want to give an easy way out for something as simple as this. It’s not just simple, it’s easy and will secure our country. We have a country that is under siege. A lot of people don’t like the word ‘invasion.’ We have a country that is being invaded by criminals and by drugs.”

Trump has floated the idea of declaring a state of emergency over the past week.

The move could possibly allow the president to free up billions in emergency funds for the wall through the National Emergencies Act. Trump acknowledged during the roundtable discussion that he is likely to get sued if he does that, but argued the courts should find that he has that power.

Trump also said during the roundtable discussion that he plans to sign a bill to give federal employees who are impacted by the shutdown back pay. The Government Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2019 was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support earlier on Friday and will extend to government workers impacted during future shutdowns as well.

“A bill was passed that I will sign in Congress making sure everyone will be getting paid immediately when this is over,” Trump said. “But I just appreciate that they [the government workers] have handled it so very well. And many of them agree with what we’re doing. We have no choice.”

Related: Border Patrol Union Makes the Case for Trump’s Wall

Trump and congressional leaders from both parties have continued discussions to overcome the stalemate. They’ve held several meetings throughout the shutdown but have been still unable to overcome the impasse.

Trump has repeatedly reaffirmed his commitment to funding the border wall since the shutdown began.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he wouldn’t bring up any bills the president wouldn’t sign. He had made earlier attempt to avert the government shutdown such as a short-term spending bill to fund the government through February 8. Trump has since made clear he won’t sign anything that doesn’t include border wall funding.

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