US President Donald Trump on Wednesday said that he is ready to wait for as long as it takes to get $5 billion from taxpayers for his US-Mexico border wall, a demand that has triggered a partial shutdown of the federal government, which is now on its fifth day of shutdown.
With no obvious end to the shutdown in the horizon, Trump made his remarks during a surprise visit to Iraq and blamed the shutdown on Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who was slated to become speaker of the US House of Representatives on January 3.
Trump had previously said that he was prepared for an extended shutdown and when asked on Wednesday how long he would wait to get what he wants, he said, “ Whatever it takes. “
The Republican president also said that the Democrat soon-to-be-speaker “is calling the shots,” suggesting that the latter’s opposition for the former’s demand for wall funding had something to do with Pelosi’s need for votes to become speaker.
Pelosi largely locked up the speakership some weeks ago.
“The American public is demanding a wall,” said Trump while on the ground at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq.
During a televised meeting on December 11 with Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, Trump had said that he would be “proud to shut down the government for border security” but has since shifted the blame to Democrats.
During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly promised Mexico would pay for his proposed wall. After Mexico repeatedly refused to do just that, the president started seeking US taxpayer funding for the wall, which he considers as vital when it comes to controlling illegal immigration.
A survey released in late November found that improved border security was a top-three priority for only about 31percent of Americans who were surveyed.
Even with both chambers of Congress and the White House under Republican control for the past couple of years, former real estate developer Trump has yet to gain full funding for his proposed wall.
Democrats and some Republicans consider this as expensive, unnecessary, and ineffective project, although some Republicans support the idea and back Trump’s demand for $5 billion in partial funding.
“His resolve is very firm,” said Representative Mark Meadows, who is a conservative Republican.
After some weeks of failed talks between Trump and congressional leaders, parts of the US government shut down on Saturday, affecting about 800,000 employees of the Department of Homeland Security, Transportation, and other agencies.
Most of the federal government, which directly employs nearly 4 million people, is unaffected. The Defense Department and other key agencies are fully funded through September 30.
Congress was scheduled to reconvene after a holiday week on Thursday and resume debate on the issue.