US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he is prepared to wait as long as it takes to get $5bn from taxpayers for his US-Mexico border wall, a demand that has triggered a partial shutdown of the federal government that is now in its fifth day.
With no immediate end to the shutdown in sight, Trump made his remarks during a surprise visit to Iraq and blamed the shutdown on Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who was expected to become speaker of the US House of Representatives on January 3.
Trump had previously said he was prepared for a lengthy shutdown and when asked on Wednesday how long he would wait to get what he wants, he said, “Whatever it takes.”
During a televised December 11 meeting with Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, Trump had said he would be “proud to shut down the government for border security” but has since shifted the blame to Democrats.
During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly promised Mexico would pay for his proposed wall. After Mexico repeatedly refused to do so, he began seeking US taxpayer funding for the wall.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll in late November found that improved border security was a top-three priority for only about 31 percent of Americans surveyed.
Democrats and some Republicans view the wall as costly, unneeded and ineffective project, but some Republicans support the idea and back Trump’s demand for $5bn in partial funding.
“His resolve is very firm,” Representative Mark Meadows, a conservative Republican, told CNN.
Following weeks of failed talks between Trump and congressional leaders, parts of the US government shut down on Saturday, affecting about 800,000 employees of the Departments of Homeland Security, Transportation and other agencies.
Most of the federal government, which directly employs almost 4 million people, is unaffected. The Defense Department and other key agencies are fully funded through September 30.
But about 800,000 federal workers have either been furloughed or told to work without pay.
Congress is scheduled to reconvene after a holiday break on Thursday and resume debate on the matter.