WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump says he sees less than a 50 percent chance congressional negotiators can put together deal to fund a southern border wall that he will accept.
Trump told The Wall Street Journal Sunday there are some "very good people" on the bipartisan negotiating team. But he said he doubts he will accept less than the $5.7 billion in wall funding he has been demanding, adding "I have to do it right."
The president also said he doubts he would accept citizenship for the so-called "Dreamers" as part of an agreement. He said the futures of immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children is a "separate subject to be taken up at a separate time."
Trump said another government shutdown is "certainly an option" if he does not get what he wants to build a wall. He also said he could declare a national emergency which would allow him to fund the wall without congressional approval -- a tactic Democrats are sure to challenge in the courts.
Trump agreed Friday to reopen the shuttered federal government for three weeks with no wall funding. In the meantime, a panel of nine Democrats and eight Republicans will try to work out a border security agreement that both Congress and Trump would accept and keep the entire government operating at least through the rest of the fiscal year.
The month-long partial shutdown created a financial hardship for 800,000 federal workers who were either furloughed or working without pay. They included homeland security and law enforcement officers and air traffic controllers.
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told Fox News Sunday that the next thee weeks are "a chance for Democrats to see if they believe in border security" to thwart illegal immigration and stop the flow of illicit drugs.
Mulvaney said the White House is "seeing Democrats starting to agree with the president" on the need for a wall along nearly 400 kilometers of the 3,200-kilometer U.S.-Mexico border.
Trump's chief congressional Democratic opponents, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, have staunchly refused his demand for wall construction money. But Mulvaney said the negotiation period will give Democrats a chance to answer the question, "Are you telling people the truth" about favoring border security, "or doing something that's politically expedient?"
Democrats insist they are interested in border security, but say a wall is impractical and a waste of money. They suggest such measures as more controls at ports of entry, more border agents, and more technology are more effective.
On the same Fox News show, Senator Joe Manchin, the only Democrat to vote last week for wall funding in a failed Republican-sponsored bill, said Democrats would "look at a wholistic approach" to determine border security needs. "We'll let the experts tell us what's needed, help us find the right path."
After Trump and Congress agreed on the three-week hiatus to end the shutdown, some government operations started to open again Saturday and many federal workers will be back at work on Monday.
But federal contract workers may not ever recoup the money for the time they were out of work unless Congress enacts legislation to pay them.
The shutdown was having a cascading effect on the U.S. economy, with Standard & Poor's Global Ratings saying the government closures cost the economy about $6 billion.