World

Trump not giving in on border wall: Graham

By AAP Newswire

A leading Senate Republican close to Donald Trump says the president isn't giving in on his demands for a wall along the US-Mexico border, as the partial government shutdown enters its fourth week.

Senator Lindsey Graham says he encouraged Trump during a telephone conversation on Sunday to reopen government for a period of weeks to try to negotiate a deal with Democrats that would break the impasse.

But the Republican said Trump wants a deal first.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also has insisted that Trump end the shutdown first before any negotiating takes place.

"I tried to see if we could open up the government for a limited period of time to negotiate a deal," Graham said on Fox News Sunday.

"The president says 'Let's make a deal, then open up the government.' Nancy Pelosi says even if you opened up the government 'I wouldn't fund a wall'.

"What is he supposed to do? Just give in. He's not going to give in," Graham said.

The assessment from Graham suggested the shutdown could last for weeks longer, if not months, inflicting additional financial pain on the 800,000 federal workers who have been idled or required to work without pay for the duration.

Democrat Senator Chris Coons called Graham's idea for a brief reopening of the government a "great place to start".

"Stop harming our country and our economy and let's make our best efforts because we all agree we need to invest more in border security," Coons said on Fox News Sunday.

Graham said he thinks Trump is willing to accept the level of wall funding he is seeking, along with some immigration measures Democrats might find acceptable, such as helping immigrants who were illegally brought to the US as children.

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 in exchange for the suggested immigration fixes.

And Trump appeared to shoot down Graham's suggestion of a "wall plus" deal, saying on Sunday on Twitter that even Democrats don't want to make the Dreamers part of the shutdown talks.

"The damage done to our Country from a badly broken Border - Drugs, Crime and so much that is bad - is far greater than a Shutdown, which the Dems can easily fix as soon as they come back to Washington!" Trump said in a separate tweet.

Graham has been among the Republicans pushing Trump to use his authority to declare a national emergency to circumvent congress and build the wall by tapping unspent money sitting in various government accounts, including for military construction and disaster relief.

Democrats oppose such a declaration but may be powerless to stop it. Many Republicans are wary, too, fearing its use by a future Democratic president.

Trump has said he prefers giving congress more time to work out a deal before pulling the trigger on such a declaration.

But Graham said on Sunday that time is running out.

"It's the last option, not the first option, but we're pretty close to that being the only option," Graham said of an emergency declaration.