United States President Donald Trump has said that he is prepared for a partial shutdown of the US government to last years. The shutdown is now entering into its third week. Trump insisted he would not sign any bill without wall funding, which Democrats adamantly oppose.
The Republican president initially gave a positive account of Friday's meeting at the White House, describing it as "very productive".
But then he acknowledged in response to a journalist's question that he had threatened to keep federal agencies closed for years if necessary.
"I did say that, absolutely I said that," said Trump in the executive mansion's Rose Garden. "I don't think it will but I am prepared."
"I'm very proud of doing what I'm doing," the president added. "I don't call it a shutdown, I call it doing what you have to do for the benefit and safety of our country."
When asked whether he had considered using emergency presidential powers to bypass congressional approval of funding, Trump said he had.
"I may do it. We can call a national emergency and build it very quickly. That's another way of doing it."
Senator Jack Reed, the senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, criticised the comments, saying in a statement, “Declaring a trumped up national emergency in order to skirt congressional approval is wrong,” reported Reuters.
The United States Constitution assigns Congress the power to fund the federal government, so Trump likely would face legal challenges if he tried to bypass Congress on financing the wall. Building a wall - and having Mexico pay for it - was one of Trump’s main promises when he ran for president in 2016.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday's meeting had been "contentious".
“But we recognise on the Democratic side that we really cannot resolve this until we open up government and we made that very clear to the president,” she said.
According to a report in The New York Times, Donald Trump said that he had assigned Vice President Mike Pence to lead a “working group” to negotiate with Democrats over the weekend, but Democrats said the phrase “working group” was never discussed.
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, told reporters outside the White House “We told the president we needed the government open. He resisted. In fact, he said he’d keep the government closed for a very long period of time, months or even years.”
The partial shutdown, which heads into its third week, has closed parts of nine federal agencies, including the Interior Department and the Internal Revenue Service, and left 800,000 federal employees either furloughed or working without salaries since December 22.
With inputs from IANS
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