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Trump And Democrats Appear No Closer To Resolving Differences Over Border Wall Funding


Federal workers affected by the partial government shutdown will miss their first paychecks this week if President Trump and lawmakers don't figure out a way to reopen the government soon. Trump and Democrats appear no closer to resolving their differences. The president demands more than $5 billion for a border wall, and Democrats say no. Now Trump is planning a prime-time Oval Office address tomorrow. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith joins us from the White House. Hi, Tam.


SHAPIRO: Tell us about the White House's plans here.

KEITH: Yeah So this is a - sort of a PR offensive, you might say. The president's going to give a speech from the Oval Office prime time tomorrow night. This will be his first speech from the Oval Office. And usually that imbues a certain significance to one of these addresses when other presidents have done it from the Oval.

And what we're told he will say is that there's a humanitarian and security crisis along the border and call on Democrats to negotiate with him on that in order to reopen the government. Also, on Thursday he'll be going to the border, according to a tweet from Sarah Sanders.

SHAPIRO: You say this is a PR offensive. Ordinarily you would expect that to go hand in hand with intense negotiations. But it doesn't look like those intense negotiations are happening, right?

KEITH: The negotiations have not been particularly intense. But today, the vice president held a briefing with about 50 reporters, including me. And he says that they have made some concessions, not on that $5.7 billion figure for wall construction, but on other things, saying that the wall doesn't have to be concrete. It could be steel slats. Now, that isn't exactly new. The president has talked about having a wall that you could see through for about a year. But they are playing that up as a concession.

They're also asking for more money for medical aid for migrants, more immigration judges and additional spending on technology to detect narcotics at ports of entry. They say those are things that Democrats asked for and that they want too. But the big message coming from Pence was that they want Democrats to start negotiating.

What Democrats are saying, Democrats in Congress, is they would like to open the government and then start negotiating on the wall, border issues sort of separately and later. So the thing that the president has to do in this prime-time address is make a case that there really is a crisis at the southern border and also make the case that the wall is a critical part of that solution. That's not something that Pence - he didn't really fully connect those dots today in the briefing.

SHAPIRO: This idea of a crisis at the southern border connects to something we've heard the president float recently, which is the possibility of his declaring a national emergency, which would be a pretty unusual way for him to go around Congress and get the wall built. Is the White House still considering that?

KEITH: Yes. Vice President Pence said that the White House counsel's office is looking at it. The president is considering it. He said that - however, that they don't see a reason for that to have to happen because Congress should be able to work this out with them and that they shouldn't have to declare an emergency, but that they are considering it.

Experts I've spoken to about it say that the president has broad powers to declare a national emergency. And he did so with tariffs on steel and aluminum. But that - many other experts, including some of them, say it would be an abuse of power and would certainly trigger legal and other pushback.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Tamara Keith speaking with us from the White House. Thanks, Tam.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith
Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. In that time, she has chronicled the final years of the Obama administration, covered Hillary Clinton's failed bid for president from start to finish and thrown herself into documenting the Trump administration, from policy made by tweet to the president's COVID diagnosis and the insurrection. In the final year of the Trump administration and the first year of the Biden administration, she focused her reporting on the White House response to the COVID-19 pandemic, breaking news about global vaccine sharing and plans for distribution of vaccines to children under 12.
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