WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Friday he could use emergency powers to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border without Congress’ approval, threatening to bypass Democratic lawmakers emboldened by their recent takeover of the House of Representatives.
A showdown between Trump and Congressional Democrats over funding for his wall project has led to a two-week government shutdown. Trump says he will not support a bill to fully fund the government until he secures the money for the wall.
Asked whether he had considered declaring a national emergency to build the wall, Trump said: “Yes, I have. … We can do it. I haven’t done it. I may do it … But we can call a national emergency and build it very quickly.”
The comments come just a day after Democrats, led by Nancy Pelosi, took charge of the House, ushering in an era of divided government two years into Trump’s term.
In sometimes combative talks on Friday, Trump, Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer failed to strike a deal to end the partial shutdown as they fought over Trump’s request for $5 billion to fund the wall.
The U.S. Constitution assigns Congress the power over funding the federal government, so Trump would likely face legal challenges if he tried to bypass Congress on financing the wall.
He dismissed those concerns in a news briefing at the White House.
“We can call a national emergency because of the security of our country, absolutely,” he said. Asked if declaring a national emergency was a threat hanging over Democrats, Trump said, “I’d never threaten anybody, but I am allowed to do that, yes.”
Reporting by Alexandra Alper; Editing by Leslie Adler and David Gregorio