The White House press secretary today reaffirmed that border security is a top priority for the White House with another potential government shutdown just weeks away.
President Donald Trump ended a record-long government shutdown last Friday by signing legislation that would temporarily reopen the government for three weeks, even though it contained no money for the border security wall.
Sarah Sanders on Monday told reporters the president is still committed to border security.
“The president doesn’t want to go through another shutdown,” she said during a press briefing.
“The goal is border security, and protecting the American people. Ideally, Democrats would take these next three weeks to negotiate in good faith, as they’ve indicated that they would, and come up with a deal that makes sense — that actually fixes the problem so we don’t have to go through that process.”
Trump pledged late last year that he would not sign any more spending bills from Congress that didn’t include $5.7 billion for the southern border security wall.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have opposed providing any funding. The stalemate is what led to the partial government shutdown on December 22.
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Sanders was also asked about a proposed bill intended to prevent future government shutdowns. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) led a group of lawmakers in reintroducing the bill back on January 11. Sanders said she had not yet seen the legislation.
“I haven’t seen a piece of legislation at this point that would make that a reality, but the president is committed to fixing the problem and it’s pretty simple,” Sanders said. “We have three weeks to work with Democrats, as the president has indicated on a number of occasions. They could get this done in 15 minutes. We agree on a number of fundamentals that border security is important. We agree on the fact there is a problem and we should do something about it.”
The president reopened the government, she added, on the basis that Democrats have signaled a willingness to reach a real deal that fixes the problem at the border. Congressional Democrats insisted throughout the shutdown that they were for border security — but then expressed reservations over whether a border wall was the best approach.
“That’s why the president has asked that it take place over the next three weeks,” Sanders said on Monday. “The president would love to deal with the overall problem of illegal immigration — fixing a number of loopholes that would prevent some of those things from happening so we can move forward with a system that actually works and functions.”
Sanders was also asked whether the president would declare a state of national emergency if a deal isn’t reached in three weeks. Trump floated the idea to free up billions in emergency funds for the border wall.
But he is also likely to face a legal battle if he does and has been warned by lawmakers and others to avoid that approach.
Sanders didn’t say he would declare an emergency, but she seemed to leave the door open.
“The president listens to members of Congress as well as constituents across the country, but the president’s number-one duty and the number-one responsibility he sees as commander-in-chief is protecting the American people,” Sanders said. “He sees the crisis at the border to be a real one. I don’t think anybody in the country can argue the fact that there is a real problem at our border. It needs to be fixed. And the president will do what it takes to address it.”
The government shutdown fight has seemed to get personal at times. Pelosi, for example, rescinded her invitation to the president to give his State of the Union address on January 29. And Trump cited the shutdown when canceling a flight Democratic leaders were planning to take to Afghanistan.
But on Monday, Pelosi sent a letter to the president inviting him again to deliver the State of the Union address on February 5.
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