Milstead, after White House event, says wall needed for border 'crisis'

President Trump retaliates to the Democrats' refusal by refusing to sign off on budgets for swaths of government departments unrelated to the dispute.— AFP  File

Mr Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he had urged the president on Sunday to temporarily reopen government to get negotiations started again.

Trump also blasted Democrats for attending a winter retreat in Puerto Rico, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers attended the opening night of Hamilton with creator and original star Lin-Manuel Miranda back in the lead.

The US government shutdown is now officially the longest on record after 22 days elapsed without a funding agreement.

"Before he pulls the plug on the legislative option, and I think we're nearly there, I would urge him to open up the government for a short period of time, like three weeks, before he pulls the plug, see if we can get a deal", said Graham, a South Carolina Republican. Such a step would allow Trump to bypass Congress and tap various pots of unspent federal money, including for military construction and disaster relief and from asset seized by law enforcement, to pay for the wall. Part of that promise was a Wall at the Southern Border. The president initially sounded as though such a move was imminent, but then pulled back. "See if we can get a deal", Graham said.

Until Friday, Trump had suggested numerous times that he was getting closer to taking the controversial decision.

"Last we looked in one of the two funds there's about $1.2 billion of unobligated dollars", Cassidy said Saturday on Fox News.

The speaker's office had no immediate comment. Democrats reject that characterization and continue to prepare a response to an emergency declaration that would involve recourse to the courts.

Correspondents say pressure is building on Mr Trump as the dispute drags on, with opinion polls showing more Americans blame him for the shutdown than they do the Democrats.

The president didn't elaborate on the reporter or the news program he had in mind while tweeting, but Washington Post's Philip Rucker identified himself as Trump's target.

United States President Donald Trump on Saturday claimed to have a "plan" to end the partial government shutdown, warning at the same time that it could go on for "a long time" if the Democrats do not cooperate.

But Trump has said that while he is interested in pursuing a broader overhaul of the immigration system, he first wants to hear what the Supreme Court has to say about the group of immigrants known as "Dreamers". Pelosi also has shown no interest in accepting a wall - she has called it an "immorality" - in exchange for immigration fixes.

He denied this allegation and insisted that the White House couldn't be in chaos due to the fact that "there's nearly nobody in the W.H. but me, and I do have a plan on the Shutdown". Most came through our Southern Border.

Oscar Murillo, an aerospace engineer at Nasa, posted his $0 cheque on Twitter and said he had actually lost money because of mandatory deductions.

The White House has been laying the groundwork for an emergency declaration, feared by members of both parties.

But Senate Republican leaders refused to take up any budget bill that will not be signed by the president, and Trump has said he will not approve any budget that does not include $5.7 billion for a border barrier. "They have to get together, forge a compromise, each side has to lose a little bit of face and we've got to get the government back open", he said.

"I would hate to see it".

But Graham, who favors a presidential declaration, said the time for talk is running out.

A person familiar with White House thinking said that in meetings this past week, the message was that the administration is in no rush and wants to consider various options. "Let's make a deal, but I'll do it if I had to, '" Graham told "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace.

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