Pence on shutdown fight: ‘No wall, no deal’

Vice President Pence vowed Thursday that President Trump would not back any deal to reopen the government without money for his proposed border wall, a sign the government shutdown will likely be headed into its fourth week this weekend.

“Walls work. … It’s not a debatable point,” Pence said during a 45-minute press briefing in the Capitol with two dozen reporters. “No wall, no deal. Because walls work.”

The vice president, flanked by White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway and acting Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Russ Vought, also said that Trump believes he has an “absolute right” to declare a national emergency at the border — a move that would allow him to shift military construction money from the Pentagon to help pay for Trump’s border wall without congressional approval.

But Pence clarified that the president has made “no decision” about whether he will pursue that route, and he called on Congress to approve the $5.7 billion in funding that Trump wants for his wall or steel barrier on the southern border.

“Our conviction is that Congress should do its job,” Pence added.

Thursday’s briefing with reporters was part of a full-court press by the Trump administration as it makes its case for the the wall. It came on the same day as Trump’s visit to the border town of McAllen, Texas, where he will participate in a roundtable discussion on border security and immigration and later receive a security briefing.

Before he left for Texas, Trump said it would be “surprising” if he did not declare a national emergency on the border if negotiations with Democrats falter.

“If this doesn’t work out, probably I will do it. I would almost say definitely,” Trump told reporters before boarding Marine One.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a Trump ally, has been pushing for a bipartisan deal to end the shutdown that would secure funding for Trump’s wall in exchange for protections for hundreds of thousands of young, undocumented immigrants who had enrolled in the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Asked about a potential “DACA-for-wall” deal, Pence said Trump has made it clear he wants to see how the Supreme Court rules on DACA before taking any action.  

“We feel confident the Supreme Court will find DACA to have been unconstitutional,” Pence said. “At that time, he believes there will be an opportunity for us not only address the issue affecting the Dreamers, but also a range of immigration issues.”

Pence’s briefing with reporters in the Capitol was rare for a vice president. But he reminded the press that he regularly held weekly briefings, known as “pen and pads,” when he served in Congress as House GOP Conference chairman.

On Thursday, the former Indiana congressman continued to cast blame on the Democratic leaders, whom he accused of intransigence as the shutdown entered its 20th day.

Mike Lillis contributed.

Updated: 3:33 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Kellyanne Conway Lindsey Graham
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