President Trump cast fresh doubt Friday on whether he would declare a national emergency to build a wall along the southern border, leaving lawmakers waiting for the president’s next move as the government shutdown was poised to become the longest in U.S. history.
“What we’re not looking to do right now is national emergency,” Trump said Friday afternoon, surrounded by law enforcement officials at a White House roundtable. “I’m not going to do it so fast.”
Trump reasserted his right to build border walls via an emergency declaration, a move that would bypass a deadlocked Congress in which Democrats have blocked any new wall money. But he said he wanted to give lawmakers more time to act and did not offer a timetable for a decision.
The comments marked a shift from earlier Friday when Trump appeared on the brink of declaring a national emergency. The president has said repeatedly in recent days that he might do so, and his administration had asked agencies to begin preparations.
Lawmakers from both parties had speculated that a national-emergency declaration could clear the way for an end to the shutdown that, at 22 days long Saturday, would become the lengthiest the nation has ever endured.
Before the shutdown and since, Trump has floated numerous strategies and potential solutions, only to reverse himself within days, hours or minutes — making it unclear whether his stance Friday would hold or for how long.
But for now, Trump’s apparent retreat on the emergency declaration leaves the impasse in place, with no obvious way to resolve it and no real efforts underway to do so.
The Senate adjourned for the weekend on Thursday and House lawmakers left town Friday, with no new negotiations scheduled.
Large parts of the federal government have been without funding since Dec. 22, and the partial shutdown’s effects have multiplied as the lapse has dragged on. Friday marked the first missed paycheck for many of the approximately 800,000 federal employees who are furloughed or working without compensation. And the White House has scrambled to find ways to keep the partially shuttered government functioning, a rapidly shifting and often improvised process that has seen the administration reverse past precedent and enter into legally murky territory.
Trump’s seeming ambivalence over an emergency declaration mirrors disagreement within his own party.