U.S. President Donald Trump remains committed to building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, but indicated Monday he is willing to wait until later this year for Congress to consider funding the project rather than insisting it be included in negotiations to avoid a government shut down this week.
The current spending plan for U.S. government operations runs out at midnight Friday, leaving Trump and congressional negotiators just days to reach an accord on funding priorities through the end of September.
In comments later confirmed by a White House official, Trump told a group of conservative journalists during a private meeting Monday that he could wait until September to reconsider funding for construction of the wall.
Democrats oppose the project, and the party’s leaders in Congress welcomed Trump’s shift.
“It’s good for the country that President Trump is taking the wall off the table in these negotiations,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. “Now the bipartisan negotiators can continue working on the outstanding issues.”
Schumer had earlier criticized Trump, saying the president was risking a federal shutdown “by shoving this wall down Congress’ and the American people’s throats.”
Wall still priority
White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters Trump’s two priorities in the budget talks are increasing spending on defense as well as border security in order to thwart illegal immigration.He said the administration is “very confident” a deal will be reached without a government shutdown.
Trump vowed during his run for the White House to build a 3,100-kilometer barrier along the U.S. southern border and make Mexico pay for it, something Mexican leaders say will not happen.
Since Trump took office three months ago, border crossings have diminished, but Spicer said that the wall still “absolutely” needs to be built.
“Just because you have a couple good months, a year, you want to take prudent long-term steps….It’s a promise he made to the American people,” the spokesman said. “This is a permanent step that will extend beyond his presidency. Eight years from now (assuming Trump is re-elected in 2020), the next president will have that wall in place to make sure that (illegal immigration) doesn’t continue.”
Trump, in a Twitter comment, said the “the Wall is a very important tool in stopping drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth (and many others)! If the wall is not built, which it will be, the drug situation will NEVER be fixed the way it should be!”