By Michael C. Bender and Kristina Peterson
WASHINGTON—President Trump said Thursday that the White House and congressional negotiators were no closer to an immigration deal, five days after he agreed to end the partial government shutdown, and reiterated he is willing to act alone to build a wall on the southern border.
“I’m not waiting for this committee,” Mr. Trump said, referring to a bipartisan group of legislators from the House and Senate who are working to hash out an agreement that would prevent another shutdown Feb 15.
Asked if he was closer or further from a deal since he agreed to end the shutdown on Jan. 25, Mr. Trump said he “would say we’re the same.” He said the biggest barrier was Democrats who oppose the wall.
President Trump announced Jan. 25that he has agreed to a plan to reopen the government for three weeks while negotiations over border funding continues. WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib explains three things to know about this agreement. Photo: Getty
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), meanwhile, reiterated that Democrats wouldn’t support funding for a concrete border wall as part of the negotiations, but indicated some openness to other forms of physical barriers.
“There’s not going to be any wall money in the legislation,” Mrs. Pelosi told reporters. But she didn’t rule out certain other physical barriers, citing “Normandy fencing,” which has crisscrossed posts.
“Is there a place where enhanced fencing, Normandy fencing, would work? Let them have that discussion,” she said, referring to the bipartisan group of 17 lawmakers. House Democratic leaders said this week they could support “enhanced fencing” where experts say it is needed.
“If there’s no wall, it doesn’t work. She’s just playing games,” Mr. Trump said of Ms. Pelosi. He said the House speaker would be “begging for a wall” if an existing barricade was removed that separated the Mexican border city of Tijuana from California, Mrs. Pelosi’s home state.
“She will say ‘Mr. President, please, please give us a wall,’” Mr. Trump said.
Meanwhile, senior Republicans on the group shrugged off Mr. Trump’s comments in a tweet earlier Thursday that they were “wasting their time,” given his assertion that Democrats wouldn’t agree to wall funding.
“I haven’t given up on that yet. I’m not exuberant about it, but I’m still hopeful,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R., Ala.) said about the group’s prospects.
Mr. Trump said he wouldn’t have done anything differently if Republicans hadn’t lost the House majority in November elections. Instead, he said the shutdown helped educate Americans to the need for a border wall.
“We’ve set the stage for what’s going to happen,” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Trump has considered acting on the wall without Congress by declaring a national emergency and using executive powers to authorize spending money on construction. That plan would almost certainly face immediate challenges in court.
The president said Thursday he would wait until the self-imposed deadline of Feb. 15 to decide on whether to declare a national emergency.
The revived prospect has stirred consternation in some right-leaning circles. Some Republicans, such as Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, take a skeptical approach to the use of executive authority and would be likely to demand specific statutory justifications for any action on the southern border.
The Federalist Society, the network of conservative lawyers that has played a prominent role in Mr. Trump’s nominations to the Supreme Court, hosted a debate Thursday about the issue, and the likelihood such a declaration could set a precedent that could backfire for conservatives in the future.
“Would a future President Kamala Harris say global warming is a national emergency?” asked David French, a conservative commentator and one of the speakers in the debate, referring to the California senator who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. Another area of concern for some on the right is the prospect of the Democratic-controlled House establishing more opportunities to sue the administration over its use of executive power.
Aides to lawmakers on the bipartisan committee are expected to meet Friday and over the weekend, with the goal of cutting a deal next week. Mr. Shelby said Democrats’ comments indicating a potential willingness to fund physical barriers left him “hopeful.”
Mr. Shelby said it wasn’t entirely clear to him what level of wall funding Mr. Trump would require to sign off on the agreement.
“That’s the central question here,” he said. When asked why the president hadn’t told him, Mr. Shelby said “maybe he hasn’t decided yet.”
House Democrats on Thursday morning released a proposal detailing how they would fund the entire Homeland Security Department, which oversees the border.
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