Senator urges Trump to give talks a chance
But Graham says proposal to end shutdown rejected
WASHINGTON — Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday that he encouraged President Donald Trump to reopen the government for a short period to try to negotiate a deal with Democrats that would break the impasse over Trump’s demands for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
But the South Carolina Republican said Trump wants a deal first.
Disagreement over funding for a border wall has caused the partial government shutdown that’s now in its fourth week. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has insisted that Trump end the shutdown before any negotiating takes place.
In an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Graham maintained that Trump is not going to give up on his demand for more than $5 billion in funding for a border wall.
“I tried to see if we could open up the government for a limited period of time to negotiate a deal,” Graham said of his telephone conversation with Trump. “The president says, ‘Let’s make a deal, then open up the government.’ Nancy Pelosi says even if you opened up the government, I wouldn’t fund a wall.”
“What is he supposed to do? Just give in? He’s not going to give in,” Graham said.
Graham said Sunday that reopening the government and attempting to find a legislative solution, then declar
● ing a national emergency if those talks don’t bear fruit, is the best way forward.
“I would urge him to open up the government for a short period of time, like three weeks, before he pulls the plug. See if we can get a deal. If we can’t at the end of three weeks, all bets are off. See if he can do it by himself through the emergency powers,” Graham said.
Waiting three weeks would take the negotiations past Trump’s State of the Union address later this month.
The assessment from Graham, who has become close to Trump, suggested the sides aren’t close to resolving a shutdown affecting 800,000 federal workers who have been idled or required to work without pay for the duration.
Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., called Graham’s idea for a brief reopening of the government a “great place to start.”
“Stop harming our country and our economy and let’s make our best efforts because we all agree we need to invest more in border security,” Coons said on Fox News Sunday.
Graham said he thinks that in addition to the level of wall funding Trump is seeking, the president is willing to accept some immigration measures Democrats support, such as helping immigrants who were illegally brought to the U.S. as children.
But Trump has said that while he is interested in pursuing a broader overhaul of the immigration system, he first wants to hear what the Supreme Court has to say about the group of immigrants known as “Dreamers.”
Pelosi has shown no interest in accepting a wall — she has called it an “immorality” — in exchange for other immigration measures.
Trump continued making his case for the wall in Sunday morning tweets, arguing that it “will bring down the crime rate throughout the entire Country!” He again sought to blame Democrats, who he said were “everywhere but Washington as people await their pay.”
“I’m in the White House, waiting,” Trump said, accusing Democrats of “having fun and not even talking!”
And Trump appeared to shoot down Graham’s suggestion, saying in another Twitter post that Democrats don’t want to make “Dreamers” part of the shutdown talks.
Graham has been among the most outspoken Republicans pushing Trump to use his authority to declare a national emergency to circumvent Congress and build the wall by tapping unspent money sitting in various government accounts, including for military construction and disaster relief.
Democrats oppose such a declaration but may be powerless to stop it. Many Republicans are wary, too, fearing its use by a future Democratic president.
“We don’t want it to come down to a national emergency declaration,” House Republican Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana said on ABC’s This Week. “Clearly the president’s got authority under the law, but he’s said he doesn’t want it to come to that. He wants Congress to solve this problem. Congress needs to solve this problem.”
Trump has said he prefers giving Congress more time to work out a deal before pulling the trigger on such a declaration.
But Graham said Sunday that time is running out.
“It’s the last option, not the first option, but we’re pretty close to that being the only option,” Graham said of an emergency declaration.
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said on CNN that he would “hate to see” Trump declare a national emergency to end the stalemate.
“If we do that, it will go to court and the wall won’t get built,” Johnson said on State of the Union. “I want to see this wall get built, so I want to keep pressure on Democrats to actually come to the negotiating table in good faith and fund what they’ve supported in the past.”
Johnson also accused Democrats of minimizing what he called a “crisis” at a border.
“The easiest solution to the shutdown is to just give President Trump the money for the mandate he received from the American public,” he said. “As a candidate, this is what he talked about, and if there’s any mandate he can claim from his election, it was better border security and keeping this nation safe.”
As pressure to end the shutdown continues to mount, some Democrats have begun urging Senate Republicans to take up House-passed legislation to reopen the government, regardless of whether the president agrees.
Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, said on Meet the Press that centrist Senate Republicans who sought to broker a deal last week should step forward and make an appeal to their party’s leader in the chamber, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
“It’s time for those centrists to speak up in their own Republican Senate caucus and tell Mitch McConnell, ‘The party’s over. We want this to end; there’s no excuse for the shutdown,’” Durbin said. “The Republican-controlled Senate and a handful of senators will make that decision.”
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said in a statement Sunday that given Trump’s suggestion late last week that he does not immediately plan to issue an emergency declaration, “it’s time for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring up the House passed appropriations bills that would finally reopen government.”
“As an equal branch of government we have the authority to override the President’s veto, if that’s what he chooses to do,” Manchin said.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., also called for the president to rein open the government before debating the issue of border security.
“What we don’t want to do is waste taxpayer money on a vanity project that’s ineffective, that the president said Mexico would pay for,” Kaine said on Meet the Press.
The shutdown on Saturday became the longest U.S. government closure of the modern era, exceeding the 1995-96 funding lapse, when Democrat Bill Clinton was president and Newt Gingrich was speaker of the House.
About 800,000 federal workers missed their paychecks for the first time Friday, as the effects from the stoppage that began Dec. 22 spread. Functions not being carried out include some routine food inspections, timely release of market-moving agriculture data, and U.S. reviews needed for initial public offerings of stocks.
As the shutdown has continued, both the House and Senate have approved legislation that would provide back pay to federal workers once the shutdown ends. Trump has said he’ll sign it.
Transportation Security Administration workers have gone without pay during the shutdown, and some have responded by calling in sick. Miami International Airport on Saturday closed its leastused concourse because of a shortage of TSA officers, according to the Miami Herald. The proportion of TSA workers on unscheduled leave on Saturday was 5.6 percent, compared with 3.3 percent on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, TSA spokesman Michael Bilello said in a tweet.
Miami International Airport spokesman Greg Chin told news outlets Sunday that the concourse will resume operations today after closing for parts of Saturday and Sunday.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee also is reopening some areas that have been closed during the shutdown. The park said in a news release that some basic visitor services will resume using revenue generated by recreation fees.
Most of the park’s facilities will remain closed, including the Sugarlands and Oconaluftee visitor centers.
An audience at a VFW post in Wheaton, Ill., listens Sunday to Democratic Rep. Sean Casten discuss implications of the shutdown for government employees. Casten also addressed President Donald Trump’s efforts to build a border wall.