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‘No wall, no deal,’ Pence declares, pushing for congressional action over national emergency

Courts would be involved if Trump ends up declaring national emergency, vice president acknowledges

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association rally to “Stop the Shutdown” in front of the Capitol on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association rally to “Stop the Shutdown” in front of the Capitol on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

“No wall, no deal.” That’s how Vice President Mike Pence succinctly summed up the administration’s position on ending the partial government shutdown, now in its 20th day. 

“Because walls work,” Pence said Thursday during a press briefing at the Capitol. 

The vice president walked the congressional press corps through the administration’s offer on ending the shutdown, as outlined in a Sunday letter from the Office of Management and Budget. 

“Our proposal is $5.7 billion, which includes a wall, a steel barrier at the southern border,” Pence said. 

He noted that construction of the barrier would be done in a way that is consistent with language in the Senate version of the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill that seven Democrats supported.

As for the other six appropriations bills that remain unfunded, Pence said the administration will not sign any of them until the wall matter is resolved. 

“Nothing is going to move until we reach an agreement on the Department of Homeland Security and border security,” he said.

Like he, President Donald Trump and Republican congressional leaders have done now for weeks, Pence used much of the press briefing to criticize Democrats for not being willing to negotiate, even as they have dug in on their own position. 

And even though Speaker Nancy Pelosi said during a White House meeting Wednesday that she’s not willing to back the wall — a nonnegotiable demand for the administration — Pence noted that Trump and his team are ready to continue talks.

“The White House door is open,” he said. “We’re ready to go to work.”

Pence also reiterated his and the administration’s preference for reaching a deal with Congress on funding the border wall, rather than resorting to a national emergency declaration to do so.

“The president has made no decision with regard to declaring a national emergency,” he said. “Our conviction is that Congress should do their job. … They can bring their priorities. We’ve laid out our priorities.”

Pence acknowledged something that Democrats have been warning about — that a national emergency declaration would likely result in legal challenges. 

“If it came to that, I suspect that the courts would be involved, but we would also be involved explaining the nature of this crisis,” he said of the administration’s willingness to defend a potential emergency declaration.

Earlier Thursday, Pelosi said she’d be willing to discuss protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival recipients as part of the negotiations if it was part of a broader conversation about immigration laws.

Pence, however, reiterated Trump’s statement from last week that he doesn’t see a resolution on DACA prior to the Supreme Court ruling whether the administration had authority to terminate the program. 

“I think the president was fairly clear that that is a matter before the courts,” Pence said, noting that Trump expects the Supreme Court to side with the administration and strike down DACA as unconstitutional.

“At that time he believes there’ll be an opportunity to address not only the Dreamers but a broader range of issues,” Pence said.

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