President Donald Trump reiterated his threat Monday to shut down the government if Congress fails to pass new border security and immigration measures, but he declined to draw a line in the sand.
Trump stuck to broad strokes as he warned he is willing to shut down the government if Congress does not take action, saying he would “always leave room for negotiation” and offering no specific funding threshold or legislative marker.
“If we don’t get border security after many, many years of talk within the United States, I would have no problem doing a shutdown,” Trump said during a joint news conference at the White House alongside Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. “It’s time we have proper border security. We’re the laughingstock of the world. We have the worst immigration laws anywhere in the world.”
Trump’s comments came after he threatened on Twitter over the weekend to shut down the government if he does not receive funding for his campaign-promised border wall from Congress.
While he spoke specifically about border wall funding on Twitter, Trump on Monday did not take a firm stance on his must-fund priorities. Instead, he simply ticked down a list of border security funding priorities and immigration reforms that he would like to see.
“Border security includes the wall, but it includes many other things,” Trump said. “We have to end the chain [migration]. We have to end these horrible catch and release principles where you catch somebody and you take their name and then you release them. We have to change our laws.”
Pressed as to whether he has a red line, Trump said no.
“I just want great border security,” Trump said.
Congressional Republican leaders are loathe to see a government shutdown shortly before the 2018 midterms and several Republican members of Congress have already publicly rebuked Trump’s threats, calling them counterproductive to their prospects of holding onto their majority in both chambers of Congress.
But Trump has frequently pivoted to immigration as a rallying cry for his base and he and his political allies firmly believe immigration will be a galvanizing issue in the midterms.
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Government funding expires at the end of September, and lawmakers in both parties have already worked to pass a series of piecemeal spending measures. But Trump’s latest threats could bring congressional gridlock back on the agenda in the final stretch of the 2018 campaign.
Trump relished in the kinship with his Italian counterpart over immigration issues in his opening remarks during the joint news conference, noting that the Italian Prime Minister was recently swept into power amid mounting frustrations with the migration crisis there.
“Our countries have learned through hard experience that border security is national security — they are one in the same,” Trump said. “Italy got tired of it.”
Trump said the two countries, through a “new strategic dialogue,” would continue to boost joint security efforts in the Mediterranean and North Africa and would focus on “the urgent need to protect our nations from terrorism and uncontrolled migration.”
“We are united in our conviction that strong nations must have strong borders,” Trump said.