By Jeff Mason and Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump urged Congress on Tuesday to give him $5.7 billion (4.5 billion pounds) this year to help build a wall on the border with Mexico, but stopped short of declaring a national emergency that could have led to unilaterally funding the project.
Facing Democratic opposition in Congress to a wall, Trump said in a prime-time televised speech that there was a growing security crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.
But after days of hinting that he might use his presidential powers to declare an emergency as a first step towards directing money for the wall without congressional approval, Trump appeared to be willing instead to continue seeking a solution to the impasse with Congress.
Trump is scheduled to visit the southwest border on Thursday and it was not clear whether he still might choose to make the national emergency declaration.
Trump’s remarks came 18 days into a partial government shutdown precipitated by his demand for wall construction, which he has said is needed to keep out illegal immigrants and drugs.
Democrats and other opponents of a border wall had threatened to take legal action if Trump issued the order, arguing that he is manufacturing a crisis to carry out his 2016 presidential campaign promise for a wall that he said at the time would be paid for by Mexico. The Mexican government has refused to provide such funds.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey, Alex Alper, Ginger Gibson, Patricia Zengerle and Mike Stone in Washington, Richard Valdmanis in Boston and Kenneth Li and Mica Rosenberg in New York; Writing by Alistair Bell and Richard Cowan; Editing by Peter Cooney)