Donald Trump's National Emergency Nears Closer With Clearer Path to a Border Wall

On the day President Donald Trump and top Texas lawmakers visited the Rio Grande Valley, the White House illustrated a pathway for the president to declare a national emergency and use existing funds to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The move involves using unspent money from a disaster spending bill and construction of a border wall that could begin by March.

A congressional aide leaked to the The Washington Post on Thursday that $13.9 billion of a disaster spending bill had been allocated to but not yet spent on several projects.The report said the Trump administration could tap that money by declaring a national emergency, which is how the president characterizes the situation on the southern border.

The president has also asked the Army Corps of Engineers to determine whether it can expedite contracts and begin construction within 45 days, according to The Post.

Democrats have challenged the president's authorization to move forward with wall construction without congressional approval, and legal experts have said such a move would likely end up in court,

Trump visited the border Thursday in McAllen, Texas, with Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Republican Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, as well as border agents, officials and other local leaders along that stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Before the president's arrival, furloughed federal workers protested the government shutdown, and some businesses posted signs that welcomed the president but implored him to end the shutdown.

The president met with top Democrats at the White House on Wednesday to try to break the impasse on a spending bill, but the negotiations once again hit a stalemate, with the president reportedly storming out of the meeting. In the Rio Grande Valley on Thursday, Trump said again that he could call a national emergency if the Democrats didn't meet his demand for funding for a border wall.

"We can declare a national emergency," Trump told reporters in McAllen. "We shouldn't have to because this is common sense."

Trump said the southern border had become a destination for drug trafficking, human and sex trafficking, and a portal for criminals to re-enter the United States.

The partial government shutdown, which hit a record-tying 21 days on Friday, began when Democrats couldn't agree with Trump on a spending package that included the president's proposed $5.7 billion for a border wall.

Since the shutdown began, about 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed or are working without pay. Homeland Security, the U.S. Coast Guard, national parks, national museums and other federal agencies have been affected by the shutdown.