Graham urges government reboot
Give it a trial run for three weeks, senator suggests
WASHINGTON — A Republican lawmaker advising President Donald Trump said he is encouraging the president to reopen the government for several weeks to continue negotiating with Democrats over funding for a U.s.-mexico border wall before the president takes the more drastic step of declaring a national emergency.
But Sen. Lindsey Graham also said Trump wants to reach a deal for the wall before reopening shuttered government departments. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insists that Trump reopen the government first.
“Before he pulls the plug on the legislative option, and I think we’re almost there, 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,” Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “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. That’s my recommendation,” added Graham, who has publicly pushed Trump to use his authority to declare a national emergency to build the wall.
Such a step would allow Trump to bypass Congress and tap various pots of unspent federal money, including for military construction and disaster relief and from asset seized by law enforcement, to pay for the wall.
Trump has kept Washington on edge over whether he would resort to such a declaration, citing a “crisis” of drug smuggling and the trafficking of women and children at the border. The president has said several times since he first mentioned the idea in public this month that he prefers to try to reach a deal with Congress.
Graham, who said he and Trump talked by telephone Sunday morning, said the legislative path “is just about shut off ” and blamed Pelosi.
The speaker’s office had no immediate comment.
Democrats oppose an emergency declaration but may be powerless to block it. Some Republicans are wary, too, fearing how a future Democratic president might use that authority. Such a move would almost certainly be challenged in the courts.
Sen. Chris Coons, D-del., called Graham’s idea of reopening the government a “great place to start.”
“I do think if we reopen the government, if the president ends this shutdown crisis, we have folks who can negotiate a responsible, modern investment in technology that will actually make us safer,” Coons said on “Fox News Sunday.” Trump has maintained that the border cannot be secured without a wall.
Graham said he thinks Trump is willing to accept the $5.7 billion he has insisted on for the wall, along with some immigration measures Democrats might find acceptable, such as helping immigrants who were illegally brought to the U.S. as children.
Pelosi has shown no interest in accepting a wall in exchange for immigration fixes.
And Trump appeared to shoot down Graham’s suggestion of a “wall plus” deal, saying on Twitter that even Democrats don’t want to make “Dreamers” part of the negotiations.
“The damage done to our Country from a badly broken Border — Drugs, Crime and so much that is bad — is far greater than a Shutdown, which the Dems can easily fix as soon as they come back to Washington!” Trump said in a separate tweet.