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Wednesday March 20th, 2019 1:36PM

The Latest: WH considers using disaster funds for wall

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump and the partial government shutdown (all times local):

6:25 p.m.

The White House has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to look at using emergency funds that Congress approved for disaster relief to build a border wall with Mexico. That's according to a congressional aide familiar with the matter who was not authorized to speak publicly.

The aide said the $13.9 billion has been allocated but not yet obligated through contracts for a variety of projects in California, Florida, Texas, other states and Puerto Rico, which have experienced hurricanes, wildfires or other natural disasters.

The money funds a variety of projects, mostly flood control to prevent future disasters.

President Donald Trump is considering invoking emergency powers to build the wall. His demand for the wall funding led to the partial government shutdown.

— Lisa Mascaro

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5:45 p.m.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham says it's time for President Donald Trump to invoke emergency powers to build the border wall with Mexico.

The South Carolina senator said Thursday his efforts to broker an immigration compromise that could help end the partial government shutdown are "stuck."

Graham says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's refusal to negotiate the wall "virtually ends" Congress' ability to pass a bill to fund it. Now, he says, "it is time for President Trump to use emergency powers to fund the construction" of a border wall or barrier.

Trump said Thursday he might declare the border situation a national emergency, which could free up funding from military projects.

The border wall with Mexico was his signature campaign issue. He said Mexico would pay for the wall, but Mexico has refused.

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5:35 p.m.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told President Donald Trump the state will build a wall along parts of the U.S.-Mexico border if the federal government pays Texas back.

Trump revealed the conversation Thursday on his visit to McAllen, Texas, as he pushed for funding for a border wall. A Patrick spokesman confirmed that Patrick made the offer.

Patrick was with Trump in McAllen. Texas has 1,200 miles of border with Mexico and has the largest sections of border without barriers.

Patrick's office said Texas could build a wall "wherever it is needed," but provided no details such as location or cost.

Trump says Patrick's offer is "not the worst idea I have ever heard," adding, "I still think I could do it cheaper than you."

The idea was immediately criticized by some Texas Democrats.

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4:50 p.m.

The Democratic-controlled House has passed two more bills to fund government agencies as a part of a strategy to end the partial government shutdown.

One bill would fund the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development departments, while the other would provide money for the Agriculture Department.

The transportation-housing bill was approved, 244-180. Twelve Republicans voted with Democrats to approve the bill.

The agriculture bill was approved 243-183, with 10 Republicans in support.

The House voted Wednesday on bills to reopen the Treasury Department and IRS.

Democrats say the bills approved Thursday would ensure that families will lose not food stamp benefits and that those living in federally supported housing are not evicted.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he won't bring up the Democratic bills in the Republican-controlled Senate.

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4:15 p.m.

Standing along the Rio Grande, President Donald Trump says "a lot of the crime in our country is caused by what's coming through here."

Trump is touring a section of the U.S.-Mexico border as he seeks to bolster his case for spending billions of dollars on a border wall.

A law enforcement officer told Trump during his tour that a greater percentage of apprehensions in recent weeks have involved people from places other than Mexico and Central America. He cited people from Pakistan, China and India as specific examples.

Trump tells reporters, "So they apprehended people from the Middle East and they do it all the time."

Trump says: "Whether it's steel or concrete, you don't care. We need a barrier."

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2:22 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence says President Donald Trump has "made no decision" about declaring a national emergency to build a border wall with Mexico. But he adds, "The president's going to get this done one way or another."

Pence called on Democrats to negotiate an end to the shutdown, which is now in its 20th day. He told reporters it's time for Congress to "do its job."

Pence also indicated Trump has little interest in a broader immigration deal to end the shutdown. He said Trump is waiting to see how the courts rule on the legality of an Obama-era program that shields some young immigrants from deportation.

Democrats say Trump is holding the country hostage for his wall funding and have called on Republicans to re-open the government.

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1:40 p.m.

President Donald Trump arrived at a Texas border town to make the case for his long-promised border wall after negotiations with Democrats blew up over his funding demands.

Trump traveled to McAllen, Texas Thursday on the 20th day of a partial government shutdown. He is seeking to use the trip to bolster his argument that a wall is needed on security and humanitarian grounds.

Trump is to visit a border patrol station and receive a briefing on border security.

The president and congressional Democrats remain at an impasse over his demand for $5.7 billion for a wall along the southern border. Critics say Trump overstates the security risks and that the administration is at least partly to blame for the humanitarian situation.

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1:25 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he is canceling his trip to Davos, Switzerland because of the partial government shutdown, now in its 20th day.

He was scheduled to leave Jan. 21 to attend the World Economic Forum. Trump says he's canceling his trip because of Democrats' "intransigence" on border security. Trump and Democrats are at an impasse over funding for Trump's proposed wall at the southern border.

In a tweet Friday, Trump offered his "warmest regards and apologies" to the economic forum.

Earlier in the day, he told reporters that he wanted to go, but that he might not if the shutdown over funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall continues.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO'-shin) and other Cabinet members are still scheduled to attend the annual Davos event, which attracts business and political elite.

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1:05 p.m.

Federal workers are denouncing President Donald Trump for a weeks-long partial government shutdown.

At a rally Thursday with Democratic members of Congress, they are demanding that Trump reopen the government so that hundreds of thousands of workers can get back to work and receive their paychecks.

Trump has indicated the government will remain shut until he gets money for a border wall.

Workers are directing their sharpest criticism at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has declined to take up spending bills passed by the House to reopen government without paying for a wall.

J. David Cox, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, says McConnell should do his "damn job and let there be a vote."

Workers chanted "get us paid."

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12:50 p.m.

Several hundred protesters are chanting and waving signs opposing a border wall next to the South Texas airport where President Donald Trump is scheduled to arrive for his trip to the border.

Across the street, a smaller group of protesters is shouting back and chanting, "Build that wall!"

Trump's arrival in McAllen Thursday will take place as he pushes Congress to fund $5.7 billion for a border wall as a condition of ending a partial government shutdown.

Debra Tietz, a resident of nearby Mission, stood with anti-Trump protesters. The 64-year-old Tietz called Trump's trip "a publicity stunt" and said she opposes the damage a border wall would do to the environment.

On the other side of the street, Eva Arechiga wore a red "Make America Great Again" and held a sign that says "Finish the Wall." A 54-year-old resident of McAllen, Arechiga said she wanted to welcome Trump and thank him. She says, "I've been waiting for the border wall to be finished," because she believes it will send a message to other countries to respect American borders.

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11:45 a.m.

The association that represents thousands of FBI agents says the partial federal government shutdown is affecting the bureau's operations.

The FBI Agents Association sent a petition Thursday to the White House and congressional leaders encouraging them to fund the FBI immediately.

The association's president, Tom O'Connor, told reporters in a conference call that Friday will be the first day that FBI personnel will not receive a paycheck.

He said the problems caused by the shutdown could make it harder to recruit and retain agents, cause delays at the FBI lab and in getting or renewing security clearances.

O'Connor said the FBI's petition is not about politics, but that financial security for agents is important for national security.

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11:05 a.m.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is blocking an attempt by Democrats to force a vote on legislation to reopen the federal government.

Democrats went to the Senate floor Thursday and asked for consent to vote on a series of bills that would end the partial government shutdown, which was in its 20th day.

Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland said the bills were uncontroversial and were broadly supported by Republicans in the past. Cardin says the country is being "held hostage" by President Donald Trump as he seeks funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

McConnell objected to the Democratic request, saying he won't agree to "pointless show votes" on bills Trump won't sign. McConnell noted that Democrats agreed in December to not vote on a funding package until a deal was reached by Trump and leaders from both parties.

The border wall was a signature campaign promise for Trump. Democrats have called a wall costly, ineffective and immoral.

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10:55 a.m.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Democrats need help with "their brand new partisan allergy" to a barrier at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Kentucky Republican on Thursday used visual aids on the Senate floor to suggest that Democrats supported such a barrier under President Barack Obama but opposed one under President Donald Trump. He recommended that Democrats "seek some treatment for their brand new party allergy to border security."

Democrats are refusing Trump's demand for $5.7 billion for part of a wall across the southern border. In 2013, some Democrats supported a $46 billion bill for a number of border security measures, including new fencing. But that legislation would have created a pathway to citizenship for millions of people in the U.S. illegally. It failed.

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10:05 a.m.

President Donald Trump says he might skip the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, if the partial government shutdown is not resolved before he's scheduled to leave on Jan. 21.

Trump told reporters Thursday that he wants to go but might not if the shutdown over funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall continues.

Last year, a brief government shutdown threatened to derail his trip to Davos, where he asserted that his "America First" agenda can go hand-in-hand with global cooperation.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO'-shin) is leading the U.S. delegation to the annual Davos event, which courts high-profile businesspeople and political figures and other elites. Other members of the Cabinet are scheduled to attend as well as Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

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10 a.m.

President Donald Trump says it would be "very surprising" for him not to declare a national emergency if he can't make a deal with Democrats to pay for his promised U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Trump is telling reporters as he leaves the White House for a Texas border visit that he would prefer to work with Congress on a deal to end the partial government shutdown and is open to compromise but will use his emergency powers to circumvent Congress if they can't come to agreement.

He said Thursday, "We have to get a win ... or I will declare a national emergency."

He has talked about declaring a national emergency before.

Trump also defends his repeated claims that Mexico will pay for his wall — even when Mexico has said it won't.

Trump says he "never said they were going to write out a check" and would pay for it indirectly "many, many times over."

Democrats have called the wall "immoral."

___

12:05 a.m.

President Donald Trump is taking the shutdown battle to the U.S.-Mexico border, seeking to bolster his case for a border wall after the latest negotiations with Democrats blew up over his funding demands.

During his visit Thursday to McAllen, Texas, Trump plans to visit a border patrol station and a section of the border. McAllen is located in the Rio Grande Valley, the busiest part of the border for illegal border crossings.

Trump stalked out of a meeting with congressional leaders Wednesday as efforts to end the shutdown fell into deeper disarray. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers now face lost paychecks on Friday.

The unraveling talks prompted further speculation about whether Trump would declare a national emergency and try to authorize the wall on his own.

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