In a Twitter storm Tuesday, President Donald Trump lashed out at Democrats on the budget impasse and said the military would build the border wall if Congress won't approve funding.
"If the Democrats do not give us the votes to secure our Country, the Military will build the remaining sections of the Wall," he said in a series of early morning tweets. "They [the military] know how important it is!"
Trump sent the tweets ahead of a meeting later Tuesday with the two top Democrats in Congress -- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California -- on the budget impasse that threatens a partial government shutdown Dec. 21.
The president gave no indication of how a military effort at border wall construction would be funded or carried out, but he praised the actions of the more than 5,000 active-duty troops now deployed to border states to stop migrants from entering the country, stringing concertina wire and shoring up barricades at existing ports of entry.
There is no money in the current Defense Department budget for border wall construction.
"Despite the large Caravans that WERE forming and heading to our Country, people have not been able to get through our newly built Walls, makeshift Walls & Fences, or Border Patrol Officers & Military," Trump said in a tweet.
He said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection and "our Military have done a FANTASTIC job of securing our Southern Border. A Great Wall would be, however, a far easier & less expensive solution. We have already built large new sections & fully renovated others, making them like new."
Trump made building a wall across nearly 2,000 miles of southern border a centerpiece of his campaign for the White House, saying he would find a way to have Mexico pay for it. That hasn't happened.
He also put the border wall at the forefront of his campaigning for Republicans in the midterm elections in November, but Democrats took the House with a large majority.
In the back-and-forth over the budget, Democrats have suggested that they are willing to go along with $1.3 billion in funding for border wall construction, while Trump has been seeking at least $5 billion.
The estimates for completing a border wall across the entire southern border range from $20 billion to $30 billion.
In an omnibus appropriations bill passed in March, Congress approved $1.6 billion of the $25 billion sought by the Trump administration for border wall and also put restrictions on funding that could be spent for new border wall designs.
There was no immediate reaction from the Pentagon to the surprise proposal for the military to take the lead in border wall construction if Congress fails to appropriate funding.
In the series of five tweets, Trump renewed his charge that Democrats have no interest in border security.
He said that Democrats "want Open Borders for anyone to come in," adding, "This brings large scale crime and disease."
If no spending deal is reached by Dec. 21, funding will run out for the Department of Homeland Security and several other federal agencies.
It was not immediately clear how a partial government shutdown might affect the Defense Department and whether it would require separate congressional action to ensure that military pay is not affected.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.