During a Christmas call with U.S. troops, President Donald Trump made it clear that there won't be a quick end to the partial shutdown of the government unless Democrats cave on their refusal to fund the border wall that was a signature promise of his campaign.
President Trump made the remarks on Tuesday morning in response to a question about when he thought the government would be reopened. In response, Trump said, "I can't tell you when the government is going to be open. I can tell you it's not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they would like to call it."
In response to a question from a reporter in the Oval Office, President Trump touted some of the progress that has recently been made on border security, and also explained some of the claims he has made on Twitter in recent days about sections of the wall that are already under construction.
"One other thing people don't understand or know... we've renovated massive amounts of very good wall — wall that was good but was in bad shape.... And in addition to that, and I think very, very importantly, we've built a lot of new wall. So it's all being built; the new piece, the new section, it's very, very exciting what's going on there, and you'll see it because in January I'm going there. ... So, while we're fighting over funding, we're also building, and it's my hope to have this done, or completed — all five hundred to five hundred-fifty miles — to have it either renovated or brand new by election time," Trump said.
Trump also reiterated his claim that he already has sufficient funding to build a wall in the $25 billion that Congress approved for border security during the last round of funding talks, but that "We want the wall money to be increased, because I want to finish it."
Negotiations between Republicans and Democrats over the wall funding issue appear to have hit a stalemate since the shutdown. The House passed a bill last week that included the full $5 billion in wall funding requested by the president, but the bill failed in the Senate due to the threat of a Democratic filibuster. President Trump has publicly urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to use the so-called "nuclear option" to end legislative filibusters, but McConnell and his aides have indicated that they do not currently have the required 50 votes in the Senate to activate the drastic measure.
Senate Democrats responded Trump's wall demands by offering additional money for border security measures, but have publicly remained steadfast that they will not vote for any bill that includes funding that is earmarked for a wall or physical barrier. Both House Minority Leader (and presumptive incoming Speaker of the House) Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have publicly stated that they would be willing to keep the government shut down forever before approving funding for Trump's signature promise.
The stalemate raises the specter of a prolonged, intractable government shutdown that may well drag into 2019 if the parties are not able to reach an agreement.