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Trump sees declaration of emergency as a last resort to build border wall, Graham says

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham speaking with attendees at the 2015 Iowa Growth & Opportunity Party at the Varied Industries Building at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

President Donald Trump says the declaration of a national emergency to fund the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border would be a last resort and still hopes to make a deal with Democrats to reopen the federal government, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Sunday.

Graham, who has called for Trump to invoke emergency authority, said on “Fox News Sunday” that he spoke with Trump earlier Sunday. Another Republican, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Trump is “willing to meet in the middle” to end a partial U.S. government shutdown.

Graham and Cruz didn’t indicate that Trump had any new offers to end the shutdown, and Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the House Republican whip, criticized Democrats for what he said was not putting new proposals on the table.

Meanwhile, Democrats remained resolute that Trump and Republican lawmakers should end the shutdown before returning to the debate over how to best secure U.S. borders and to change immigration laws.

“More border security –– let’s have at it,” Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday. “But while we’re having that debate, let’s reopen the government.

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Trump sent a series of Twitter posts on the shutdown Sunday morning, including one that returned to a theme of his 2016 presidential campaign: that many immigrants are criminals. Building a wall, Trump said, “will bring down the crime rate throughout the entire Country!”

About 800,000 federal workers missed their pay for the first time Friday. Some routine food inspections, release of market-moving agriculture data, and U.S. reviews needed for initial public offerings of stocks have been delayed.

Democrats and the president remain at loggerheads. Party leaders say they won’t agree to fund any kind of wall or barrier between the U.S. and Mexico, and Trump says he won’t agree to reopen the government until the wall is funded.

Trump said on Fox News Saturday night that he has an “absolute right to call a national emergency” over border security. On Friday, though, he said he wasn’t rushing to use that option –– which would be challenged in court and, if not overturned, establish a precedent expanding the power of future presidents who could include Democrats.

Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said on ABC’s “This Week” that “one phone call” from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could get the ball rolling to reopen the government.

Durbin said the shutdown will end “when the Senate Republicans say, ’we’ve had enough.

“We’re not going to stand here and be blamed for this. We believe the government should be opened. Once the president realizes he’s lost the Senate Republicans, we can roll up our sleeves, open the government and get down to business,” Durbin said.

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As the shutdown drags on, each side has blamed the other. The White House has contended that Democrats refuse to negotiate, while Democrats accuse Trump of forcing government workers to go unpaid as leverage to get $5.7 billion for a wall that voters don’t want.

Transportation Security Administration workers have gone without pay during the shutdown and some have called in sick. Miami International Airport Saturday closed its least-used concourse because of a shortage of TSA officers, according to the Miami Herald. The proportion of TSA workers on unscheduled leave Saturday was 5.6 percent, compared with 3.3 percent on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, TSA spokesman Michael Bilello said on Twitter.

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© 2019 Bloomberg News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.