(Adds quotes from Pence)
By Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON, Jan 7 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump has not made a decision on whether to declare a national emergency over his demand for border wall funding and the White House counsel’s office is studying the matter, Vice President Mike Pence said on Monday.
“The Democrats need to start negotiating,” Pence told reporters in a briefing, adding that the Republican president had invited Democrats to return to the White House to respond to the administration’s proposal on how to end a partial government shutdown now in its third week.
Pence said Trump, in an address to the nation on Tuesday, would emphasize the White House’s position that a humanitarian and security crisis existed on the U.S. border with Mexico.
Trump has said he would consider declaring a national emergency to bypass Congress and proceed with construction of the wall without its approval.
“He’s made no decision on that,” Pence said.
Asked how thoroughly the White House counsel’s office had reviewed the possibility of a possible emergency declaration and the chance of accompanying legal challenges, Pence said: “They’re looking at it, and the president is considering it.”
Asked why the administration did not put forward its current request for $5.7 billion to fund the wall earlier in the budgeting process last year, Pence replied: “Things have gotten a lot worse.”
Pence led talks between other senior administration officials and congressional aides over the weekend, which he described as productive. A Democratic aide said they had not generated any progress.
Pence noted that Democrats had said they would not negotiate until the government was reopened. Democrats in the House of Representatives have passed measures to do just that, without funding for the wall.
“The president’s position is: There is a crisis at the southern border, and Democrats are refusing to negotiate,” Pence said.
The acting director of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, Russ Vought, said tax refunds would be distributed despite the government shutdown. He said other efforts were being made to mitigate the effects of the shutdown on Americans. (Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Peter Cooney)