Trump says no emergency declaration to end US govt shutdown

This article is more than 12 months old

WASHINGTON US President Donald Trump said he was holding off on declaring a state of emergency to end the partial US government shutdown that dragged into a 23rd day yesterday, as he insisted on US$5.7 billion (S$7.7 billion) to build a Mexico border wall that congressional Democrats oppose.

Asked by Fox News why he did not immediately declare a national emergency, Mr Trump said he wanted to give Democratic lawmakers more time to strike a deal.

"I want to give them the chance to see if they can act responsibly," he told Fox in an interview late Saturday.

The shutdown became the longest on record at midnight on Friday, when it overtook a 21-day stretch in 1995-1996 under president Bill Clinton.

Mr Trump fired off a series of tweets on Saturday in an effort to defend his stance and goad Democrats to return to Washington and end what he called "the massive humanitarian crisis at our Southern Border".

"Democrats could solve the shutdown in 15 minutes," he said in one tweet, adding in another, "We will be out for a long time unless the Democrats come back from their 'vacations' and get back to work. I am in the White House ready to sign."

But most lawmakers left town and will not return before today, leaving little chance for any solution before then. The impasse has paralysed Washington, with Mr Trump refusing to sign off on budgets for government departments unrelated to the dispute.

As a result, 800,000 federal employees - includingTransportation Security Administration workers - received no pay cheques on Friday.

At a White House meeting on Friday, Mr Trump described an emergency declaration as the "easy way out" and said Congress had to step up to the responsibility of approving funding for the wall.

"If they can't do it... I will declare a national emergency. I have the absolute right," he said.

Mr Trump acknowledged that such a move would likely trigger a legal battle ending in the Supreme Court.

Opponents say such a unilateral presidential move would be constitutional overreach and set a dangerous precedent in similar controversies. - AFP