President Trump said that he would agree to a steel fence rather than a concrete wall on America's southern border yesterday as the budgetary fight that has closed parts of the federal government entered its third week.
Democrats believe they have a plan to bring new leverage to the negotiations.
Large chunks of the federal government were shut down on December 22 after lawmakers and the president hit an impasse over Trump's demands to build a wall.
With no breakthrough in sight to end the partial government shutdown, President Donald Trump is planning to give a prime-time televised address on Tuesday and visit the U.S. -Mexico border on Thursday to highlight his demands for a border wall. While Vice President Pence eagerly tweeted about weekend talks between the White House and Congress, there was one thing which stood out from the photos released by his office - there were no lawmakers from either party involved. They "don't like concrete, so we'll give them steel, " he has said.
The White House warned again that the shutdown could last for some time while suggesting that the offer of a steel barrier was an olive branch to Democrats.
The shutdown, which is threatening to become the longest in US history, is affecting about 800,000 federal workers, many of whom will soon miss their first paycheck, and has curtailed the functions of numerous government agencies.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the majority leader, said on "Meet the Press": "We'll do it bill by bill so we can help taxpayers, we can help people who need food assistance, we can help people who need housing vouchers, people who need flood insurance".
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"I don't know what he's basing this on, but he's faced so many lawsuits when he ignores the law and ignores tradition and precedent and just goes forward without any concern", the Democrat said on CBS "Face the Nation". She has long argued against them and tried to broker resolutions to past stalemates.
Spokesmen for former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush told Politico Friday that neither of them had discussed the border wall with Trump.
Building a wall along the 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) US-Mexico frontier was a central plank in the 2016 election campaign of Trump, who has sought to equate immigrants with crime, drugs and gangs.
As the impact of the shutdown spreads - with reports that it may affect food subsidies for the poor and the tax refunds many people depend on each year - Trump insisted that Americans, even those directly affected, understood his stance. Two sick migrant children have died in the past month after crossing the border and being taken into custody by federal authorities, and about 50 illegal immigrants per day are in need of medical treatment at hospitals. Democrats criticized McConnell for waiting on Trump's support, but Collins said she was sympathetic to McConnell's opposition to moving legislation without agreement from the president.
"Our position is very simply this: there is a security and humanitarian crisis at the southern border", Mr. Pence said.
Earlier in the day, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the president will visit the border with Mexico on Thursday, to meet with "those on the frontlines of the national security and humanitarian crisis".
Vice President Mike Pence said White House lawyers were evaluating the possibility that Trump could declare a national emergency in order to secure alternate funding for the wall but that Trump had not made a decision on using that tactic.