Donald Trump showed no signs on budging on his demand for border wall funding on Wednesday, the 12th day of a partial federal government shutdown.
The shutdown, which began on December 22, was triggered by the Republican president’s demand for more than $5bn to fund a wall on the US’s southern border.
Trump told reporters on Wednesday that the shutdown could last a “long time”, adding that the wall is “too important of a subject to walk away from”.
“I think the people of this country think I am right,” Trump said, and it “could be a long time” before the government reopens.
Trump also rejected his own administration’s offer to accept $2.5bn for the wall. That offer was made when Vice President Mike Pence and other top official met with Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer at the start of the shutdown.
Wednesday’s comments came ahead of a briefing at the White House by senior Department of Homeland Security officials who Trump had said would “make a plea” to congressional leaders for the border wall.
Incoming House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters later on Wednesday that officials did not finish the briefing and that Trump requested the top Republicans and Democrats return on Friday to continue the meeting.
“The president asked us to come back on Friday after the leadership races” for the new session of Congress, McCarthy said. “We know that we have a challenge along the border. We want to solve that issue. We want to make sure we open this government up. And I think at the end of the day, the president, listening to him, he wants to solve this as well,” he said.
It was unclear if the briefing would lead to a breakthrough in the standoff over a funding dispute.
When Democrats, led by presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, take over the House on Thursday, they plan to approve a two-part spending package meant to end the shutdown. But its prospects of passage are grim in the Senate, where Republicans hold a majority.
The House Democrats’ measure does not contain the $5bn Trump wants for the wall – one of his key campaign promises – and sets up the first major battle of the new Congress between House Democrats led by Pelosi and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
At the Capitol on Wednesday, Pelosi said she hoped Republicans and the White House “are hearing what we have offered” to end the shutdown.
The White House dismissed the Democrats’ proposal as a “non-starter”.
“It does not fund our homeland security or keep American families safe from human trafficking, drugs, and crime,” Sanders said in a statement late on Tuesday.
Trump remains committed to “an agreement that both reopens the government and keeps Americans safe,” she said.
Trump said last month he would be “proud” to shut down the government over the issue but then blamed Democrats.
McConnell has said Senate Republicans will not approve a spending measure that Trump does not support.
The Democrats’ two-part package includes a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security at current levels through February 8 and provide $1.3bn for border fencing and $300m for other border security items including technology and cameras.
The second part of the package would fund federal agencies that are now unfunded, such as the Justice, Commerce and Transportation departments, through September 30.
Trump says the wall is crucial to curbing irregular immigration. Democrats disagree, with Pelosi calling the wall immoral, ineffective and expensive. Trump repeatedly said during his presidential campaign that Mexico would pay for the wall, but Mexico has refused and US taxpayers likely will be left footing the bill.
The Democratic package could put Trump and his Republican allies in a tough position. If they reject funding bills for departments unconnected to border security, Republicans could be seen as holding those agencies and their roughly 800,000 affected workers hostage to Trump’s desire to build a wall.
More than half are working without pay, while the rest are furloughed.
Last week, federal employees sued the US government over the requirement that workers deemed “essential” must work without pay during the shutdown.
In the past, Congress has approved back pay for federal workers, but the American Federation of Government Employees, which announced the lawsuit on Monday, called the requirement to work without pay “inhumane”.
On Wednesday, the Smithsonian museums and National Zoo in Washington, DC, closed due to the shutdown.
Due to the #GovernmentShutdown, Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo are closed. We will update our operating status as soon as the situation is resolved. We do not plan to update social media other than to inform you of our operating status.
— Smithsonian (@smithsonian) January 2, 2019