Durbin says shutdown deal remains elusive because Trump "doesn't care"

Durbin: Trump "doesn’t care" about shutdown

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the second-highest ranking Democrat in the Senate, said lawmakers and the White House remain deeply divided over budget negotiations to reopen the government, saying President Trump "doesn't care" if the partial shutdown continues to drag on. 

"I can't say that we're close, because the president has made it clear he doesn't care," Durbin said on "Face the Nation" Sunday. "He's prepared to see a shutdown for months and even said years, and reaffirmed that before the cameras. It was stunning to hear a president of the United States say that about his own government, a government we elected him to lead."

Since Dec. 22, negotiations between congressional leaders and the White House have been locked in a stalemate over Mr. Trump's unwavering demand for more than $5 billion to construct a wall or barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border. Newly minted Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has vowed that her caucus will not budge to the president's demand. 

On Thursday, the Democratic-controlled House passed six appropriations bills to fund most of the government and a continuing resolution to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) until Feb. 8. Because the proposals do not include any additional funding for a border barrier, they were dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Durbin dismissed Mr. Trump's repeated accusations that Democrats are not supporting funds for a border wall only because he made the issue an integral theme of his campaign and White House agenda. 

"Well, I would just say, do you remember the president's words? How could you forget? A concrete wall 2,000 miles long from sea to shining sea paid for by the Mexicans. How many times did he say that to the American people?" Durbin said. "That is not what any of us have ever voted for in the past."

As Democrats have stood firm on their opposition to the White House's request for border wall funds, Mr. Trump again floated the idea of bypassing Congress and proclaiming a national emergency to build a barrier along the southwestern border. 

"I may declare a national emergency, dependent on what's going to happen over the next few days," the president told reporters Sunday morning before departing for Camp David for meetings with top aides. 

Democratic Rep. Adam Smith, the new chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, conceded on Sunday the president could use emergency powers to build the wall. "Unfortunately, the short answer is yes," Smith said on ABC's "This Week" when asked if Mr. Trump has the authority to use Department of Defense funding to erect a border barrier. 

But Durbin said such a maneuver will surely be challenged in court. 

"He's faced so many lawsuits when he ignores the law and ignores tradition and precedent and just goes forward without any concern," he said. "He'll face a challenge, I'm sure, if he's oversteps what the law requires when it comes to his responsibility as commander-in-chief."