US President Donald Trump has offered to erect a steel barrier rather than a concrete wall along the southern border with Mexico to iron out differences with Democrats over the issue which has led to a partial government shutdown for a fortnight now.
The partial shutdown started on December 22 when funding for many federal agencies expired and President Trump refused to sign any spending measure from Congress that did not include USD 5 billion for his US-Mexico border wall.
Democrats controlling the House have agreed to fund only USD 1.3 billion for border security.
Trump's remarks on Sunday came after meetings between Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic congressional aides --House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Trump believes that the shift in materials might appease Democrats.
"We are now planning a steel barrier rather than concrete (wall). It is both stronger & less obtrusive. Good solution, and made in the USA," Trump said as the shutdown stretched into its third week.
"VP Mike Pence and group had a productive meeting with the Schumer and Pelosi representatives today. Many details of Border Security were discussed,” he said.
“We've been in touch with a lot of people, and I informed my folks to say that we'll build a steel barrier. Steel. It'll be made out of steel. It'll be less obtrusive, and it'll be stronger," Trump told reporters at the White House on his return from Camp David.
Responding to a question, Trump said Democrats did not like the option of a concrete wall along the Mexico border, so he has offered them with a steel one. Trump argues that a physical barrier along the US-Mexico border is essential to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into the US.
Democrats have said their opposition to the wall is a matter of morals and effectiveness. Democratic lawmakers have argued the wall would not be a good deterrent to illegal immigration, and that investments should be made in technology to secure the border.
The disagreement has been at the centre of a partial government shutdown.
"They don't like concrete, so we'll give them steel. Steel is fine. Steel is actually more expensive than concrete, but it will look beautiful and it's very strong. It's actually stronger,” Trump told reporters explaining the reasons for moving towards a steel-based physical barrier rather than a concrete one.
"What we need is we need a strong border. We have criminals coming in. We have human traffickers coming in. We have drugs pouring in. We have things happening that you don't want to even know about. And it's been that way for decades, and we can't have it anymore,” Trump said.
He also threatened to impose national emergency to build the wall.
"We are looking at a national emergency because we have a national emergency," Trump told reporters.
Trump did not specify on the mode of payment for the border wall if he declares a national emergency.
January 12 would mark its 22nd day, setting a new record for US shutdowns. The longest on record lasted 21 days under President Bill Clinton, from the end of December 1995 through the start of January 1996.
The current shutdown has already taken a toll across the country. About 800,000 federal workers are furloughed or working without pay.