WASHINGTON • United States President Donald Trump said he was holding off on declaring a state of emergency to end the partial US government shutdown that dragged into a 23rd day yesterday, as he insisted on US$5.7 billion (S$7.7 billion) to build a Mexico border wall that congressional Democrats oppose.
Asked by Fox News why he did not immediately declare a national emergency to secure the funds without congressional approval, Mr Trump said he wanted to give opposition Democratic lawmakers more time to strike a deal.
"I want to give them the chance to see if they can act responsibly," he told Fox in an interview late last Saturday.
The US government shutdown became the longest on record at midnight last Friday, when it overtook a 21-day stretch in 1995-1996 under then President Bill Clinton.
Mr Trump fired off a series of tweets last Saturday in an effort to defend his stance and goad Democrats to return to Washington and end what he called "the massive humanitarian crisis at our Southern Border".
"Democrats could solve the shutdown in 15 minutes!" he said in one tweet, adding in another: "We will be out for a long time unless the Democrats come back from their 'vacations' and get back to work. I am in the White House ready to sign!"
The impasse has paralysed Washington, its impact felt increasingly around the country, with the President refusing to sign off on budgets for swathes of government departments unrelated to the dispute.
As a result, about 800,000 federal employees, including FBI agents and air-traffic controllers, received no pay cheques last Friday.
At least one major airport has had to temporarily shutter a concourse because of staffing issues related to the shutdown.
Others are opening food pantries to support the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees working without pay.
Miami International Airport closed one of its concourses for half the day last Saturday. Airport officials said they plan to do the same yesterday and today out of concerns that they would not have enough employees to operate all the security checkpoints.
Airport spokesman Greg Chin said the decision to close some parts was a "precautionary measure to optimise staffing" during peak times, when large numbers of cruise-line passengers leave the city.
According to TSA statistics, airports across the country are also facing staffing shortages.
After several news outlets published stories featuring long lines at airport security, the Department of Homeland Security pushed back, calling the reporting "fake news".
Officials say there have been no major delays and no impact on national security.
Opponents say a unilateral presidential move like declaring emergency would be constitutional overreach and set a dangerous precedent in similar controversies.
Mr Trump pushed back last Saturday on a media report that his White House was "chaotic" with no plan or strategy to end the shutdown.
To understand the plan, "you would have to understand the fact that I won the election and I promised... a wall at the Southern Border. Elections have consequences", he tweeted.
According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, more Americans, by a wide margin, blame Mr Trump and Republicans in Congress than congressional Democrats for the now record-breaking government shutdown. Most also reject the President's assertion that there is an illegal-immigration crisis on the southern border.
Support for building a wall on the border, which is the principal sticking point in the stalemate between the President and Democrats, has increased over the past year. Today, 42 per cent say they support a wall, up from 34 per cent in January last year. A slight majority of Americans, 54 per cent, oppose the idea, down from 63 per cent a year ago.
The poll was conducted from last Tuesday to Friday among a random national sample of 788 Americans.