President Donald Trump said Sunday that he would be willing to accept a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border that is made out of steel rather than concrete.
“[Democrats] don’t like concrete, so we’ll give them steel. Steel is fine. Steel is actually more expensive than concrete, but it will look beautiful and it’s actually strong. It’s actually stronger,” Trump said at Camp David.
A two-page letter that the Office of Management and Budget sent congressional leaders on Sunday still asked for $5.7 billion for the wall, but this time described it as a 234-mile “steel barrier” along the southern U.S. border, reported The Washington Post, which obtained a copy of the letter. The letter also requested “an additional $800 million to address urgent humanitarian needs” and aid unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the border, according to the Post.
The president’s statement came as the partial government shutdown dragged into its third week over his demand for more than $5 billion to build a border wall he repeatedly promised Mexico would pay for. Democrats have opposed funding a wall they have called “immoral” and impractical ― but the wall’s material has not been their sticking point.
A spokesperson for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the president’s statement.
Asked earlier Sunday whether he found a wall made out of steel more acceptable, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) flatly said “no.”
The incoming chair of the House Armed Services Committee argued in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” that building additional barriers along the border would not actually enhance border security.
“There is no evidence whatsoever that that’s necessary, and yet he is willing to shut down the government and stop paying Border Patrol agents, and, in many cases, you know, stop all the efforts that we have made to enhance border security over a campaign promise,” Smith said.
The shutdown has affected a range of government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department. An estimated 800,000 federal employees throughout the country have either been furloughed and are going without a salary or, if deemed essential, are working without getting paid.
Vice President Mike Pence held meetings with Democratic congressional aides over the weekend at the White House, but the two sides appear dug-in with no deal in sight. Administration officials have said they won’t accept anything less than the $5.7 billion in wall funding they originally requested.
Trump further said Sunday he was considering whether to bypass Congress and build the wall by declaring a national emergency ― which would constitute an unprecedented use of executive powers. Some advisers close to the president are reportedly pushing him to do so if negotiations on the Hill drag on, a move that would put the Defense Department in charge of building the wall.
“We’re looking at a national emergency because we have a national emergency,” Trump told reporters on Sunday, per a pool report.
Still, such an action would likely face an immediate legal challenge from congressional Democrats.
“I think the president would be wide open to a court challenge saying, Where is the emergency? You have to establish that in order to do this,” Smith said on “This Week.”
“But beyond that, this would be a terrible use of Department of Defense dollars. The president spends most of his time talking about how we’re not spending enough on national security. Now he wants to take $20 billion out of the defense budget to build a wall, which by the way is not going to improve our border security,” he added.
This story has been updated with information about the letter from the Office of Management and Budget.