U.S. Senate and House leaders are to continue negotiations with the White House late Saturday morning in an effort to end the partial government shutdown.
Democrats have said flat out that there will be no funding in any deal to end the shutdown for a wall that President Donald Trump wants to construct at the U.S. border with Mexico.
Trump said Friday he is willing to drag out negotiations “for months or even years” until he gets the $5.6 billion he says is needed to start building the wall.
He also threatened Friday to bypass Congress and declare a national emergency in order to get the wall built.
Trump said the hundreds of thousands of federal workers affected by the shutdown want him to “keep going” for border security. It was not immediately clear if he had actually talked to any of the 800,000 workers affected by the shutdown.
When asked about how workers are expected to manage without a financial safety net, the president replied: “The safety net is going to be having a strong border because we’re going to be safe.”
Trump said Friday he had a “very productive” meeting with congressional leaders to resolve the partial shutdown that was triggered by disagreement over $5.6 billion in funding to build the wall.
But Democratic congressional leaders characterized the White House meeting differently.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who assumed leadership of the newly sworn in House Democratic majority Thursday, called the almost two-hour-long meeting “contentious.” She continued her oft-repeated assertion that agreement on the wall’s funding “cannot be resolved until we open up the government.”
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told reporters the president threatened to keep the government closed for “a very long period of time . . .”
Despite comments from the Democratic lawmakers that little progress was made, Trump said, “we’re on the same path” to reopen the government. He touted the benefits of “a solid steel or concrete structure” along the border.
The House passed a bill Thursday to reopen shuttered federal government agencies. The measure did not, however, include the $5.6 billion the president has demanded to build a wall at the U.S. border with Mexico.
“We’re not doing a wall,” Pelosi vowed on Thursday. She suggested that the money could better be used for border security technology and hiring more border agents.
However, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell called the House plan to end the shutdown “political theater.”
The Senate, however, passed an identical bill last month, while Republicans still controlled both chambers of Congress.
On Friday, the Pentagon said it had received a request from DHS for additional help securing the U.S. southern border.
A defense official told VOA the Pentagon is now reviewing the DHS formal request, which calls for “additional capabilities at the border.” The official would not elaborate on what specific capabilities DHS requested from the Defense Department on Friday.
DHS is among the government agencies left unfunded due to the shutdown, but Congress has funded the Defense Department through September 30, 2019.
VOA’s Carla Babb contributed to this report.