President Trump said Monday that he wouldn’t flinch from a government shutdown this fall over border wall funding, injecting confusion into what had been an unusually orderly and productive appropriations process for the Republican-run Congress.
The threat bucked an agreement on spending bills Mr. Trump struck last week with Republican leaders, put immigration front and center in the midterm election campaigns and raised questions about exactly what sort of shutdown the president had in mind.
Fed up with years of debate that accomplished nothing to secure the border or fix the broken immigration system, Mr. Trump said he wanted results or else.
“If we don’t get border security, after many, many years of talk within the United States, I would have no problem doing a shutdown,” he said at a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
The remark reinforced Mr. Trump’s tweet over the weekend that threatened a shutdown over border wall funding and other immigration reforms.
He demanded more border security, an end to the catch-and-release policy for border jumpers and a move to a merit-based legal immigration system.
Asked by a reporter about the other demands, Mr. Trump said he was ready to talk with Democrats.
“I’ll always leave room for negotiations,” he said. “I have no red line, unlike President Obama. I just want great border security.”
He was referring to Mr. Obama’s backing down from a “red line” he declared over Syrian President Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons in the country’s civil war.
With Congress making progress passing the 12 spending bills that keep the government open, it was unclear what Mr. Trump was willing to shut down. If he targeted a stand-alone Homeland Security Department bill, a shutdown would not effect essential personnel such as border agents, customs officials or Coast Guard patrols.
Democrats are in lockstep opposition to Mr. Trump’s border wall. The president’s threat could give them cover to block other spending bills and tempt a shutdown that they could blame on Republicans just before the November elections.
Last week, Mr. Trump and Republican congressional leaders agreed to relegate the wall issue to the Department of Homeland Security spending bill while pushing through most of the other spending bills.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said his chamber was moving forward with plans to pass most spending bills on time.
“The Senate has a lot to do this week. We’ll finish up the set of appropriations measures we’ve been considering for several days and take four more big steps towards our goal of completing a regular appropriations process and funding the government in a timely and orderly manner,” Mr. McConnell said.
It would be the first time in years that Congress avoids what has become the default process of shutdown showdowns, using stopgap measures to keep the government open past the Sept. 30 deadline and then passing an omnibus spending bill.
Mr. Trump, Mr. McConnell and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, agreed last week to push through more than half of the 12 federal spending bills before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30.
Under the plan, the Homeland Security spending bill, which would include border wall funding, would not have to be passed before the deadline. The agency could be kept open with stopgap funding until after the election.
The House passed a Homeland Security spending bill that included $5 billion for border security. The president supported that measure, but the border security dollars will have a hard time surveying Democratic opposition in the narrowly divided Senate.
Standing beside Mr. Conte, whose newly formed right-wing populist government also has taken a hard line on illegal immigration, Mr. Trump said the U.S. had “the worst immigration laws in the world.”
“We are the laughingstock of the world,” said Mr. Trump.