President Donald Trump vowed again Tuesday to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico to block illegal immigration, even as he is signaling he is willing to postpone a fight over funding it until later in the year to avert a possible government shutdown this week.
"Don't let the fake media tell you that I have changed my position on the WALL. It will get built and help stop drugs, human trafficking," Trump said in a tweet.
On Monday, Trump told a group of conservative journalists at the White House that he can wait till September for a showdown over funding for the wall, which by some estimates could cost more than $20 billion.
The dispute over paying for the wall, which Democratic lawmakers oppose, threatened to derail efforts to reach accord with lawmakers on a funding measure to pay for government operations over the next five-plus months. The current spending plan expires at midnight Friday, which, if no new agreement is reached, could shut down the government on Saturday, Trump's symbolically important 100th day in office.
Democrats welcomed Trump's shift in backing off a demand to fund the wall in the current budget talks.
"It's good for the country that President Trump is taking the wall off the table in these negotiations," said Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer. "Now the bipartisan negotiators can continue working on the outstanding issues."
Schumer had earlier criticized Trump, saying the president was risking a federal shutdown "by shoving this wall down Congress' and the American people's throats."
White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters Trump's two priorities in the budget talks are increasing spending on defense as well as border security and the wall in order to thwart illegal immigration. He said the administration is "very confident" a deal will be reached without a government shutdown.
Trump vowed during his run for the White House to build a 3,100-kilometer barrier along the U.S. southern border and make Mexico pay for it, which Mexican leaders say will not happen.
Since Trump took office three months ago, border crossings have diminished, but Spicer said that the wall still "absolutely" needs to be built.
"Just because you have a couple good months, a year, you want to take prudent long-term steps.... It's a promise he made to the American people," the spokesman said. "This is a permanent step that will extend beyond his presidency. Eight years from now (assuming Trump is re-elected in 2020), the next president will have that wall in place to make sure that [illegal immigration] doesn't continue."
Trump, in tweet Monday, said the "the Wall is a very important tool in stopping drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth (and many others)! If the wall is not built, which it will be, the drug situation will NEVER be fixed the way it should be!"