WHITE HOUSE - Although a majority of Americans blame the U.S. president for the prolonged partial government shutdown, Donald Trump on Monday told farmers that the opposition Democrats in Congress are squarely responsible.
"They will not approve the measures we need to keep American safe," Trump told a national convention of farmers in New Orleans where he defended his demand for billions of dollars for a border wall with Mexico.
Drones and sensors are not adequate for border security, Trump added, contending only a "strong steel or concrete barrier" can prevent illegal immigrants from entering the United States.
"I will never ever back down" from efforts to keep America safe, Trump vowed in the speech to the 100th annual convention of the American Farm Bureau.
He accused Democrats of refusing to approve money for a wall because they want to use it as an issue for next year's presidential campaign when Trump faces re-election.
Six major polls show that half or more Americans hold the president and his Republican Party responsible for the shutdown. And 63 percent of American voters support a Democratic proposal to reopen parts of the government that do not involve border security while negotiating funding for a border wall, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released Monday.
Earlier in the day, Trump told White House reporters he would not, at least for the moment, declare a national emergency to build the wall.
"I'm not going to do that," Trump said as he left the White House to speak to farmers in New Orleans.
About 800,000 federal workers are furloughed or working without pay during the record-long partial government shutdown which stretched into its 24th day Monday.
"We are open to resolution and negotiation," White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway told VOA News on Monday, indicating that communication is under way between the executive branch and Democrats, but she provided no details.
Trump has rejected a call by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, one of his staunchest congressional supporters, to reopen shuttered agencies for three weeks while he holds more talks with Democratic leaders about his plan for a wall along the 3,200-kilometer southern U.S. border.
Graham told the Fox News Sunday television program he would still support a presidential emergency declaration to build the border wall without congressional authorization after giving talks another chance.
"I would urge him to open up the government for a short period of time, like three weeks, before he pulls the plug, see if we can get a deal. If we can't at the end of three weeks, all bets are off," Graham said.
"I'm not interested," Trump replied to a reporter's query Monday about Graham's suggestion, contending that top Democrats in Congress could quickly end the shutdown.
The Democrat-led House of Representatives has passed several measures that would reopen the shuttered agencies while border security talks continue.
Another such bill is up for consideration Tuesday that would reopen the agencies through Feb. 1, and another that would open them through Feb. 28 is expected to go before the House on Thursday.
House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Monday used Twitter to blame Republicans for starting the shutdown, and called for Trump to allow the Senate to vote to end it, arguing furloughed federal workers, who have already missed one paycheck, "are facing a life or death situations" just so the president "can try to force taxpayers to fund a border wall he promised Mexico would pay for."
In a speech on the Senate floor Monday, Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow a vote on legislation already approved by the House of Representatives to end the shutdown.
"How much more suffering must the president cause before leader McConnell realizes it's time to move ahead without him? It seems clear to everybody but leader McConnell that Congress needs to move forward without the president," Schumer said. "It's time for leader McConnell to realize he has the power to break this impasse, passing the House legislation to reopen the government."