Kellyanne Conway: government shutdown is over a "silly semantic argument"

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Sunday defended President Donald Trump's border security rhetoric - including the assertion that "any deaths of children" at the border are "strictly the fault of the Democrats" - after a second migrant child died in USA custody earlier this month.

Trump has been excoriated by opposition Democrats, who oppose his demand for $5 billion in border wall funding, after he blamed them for the deaths of two Guatemalan children in U.S. custody in a tweet on Saturday.

"What Donald Trump and the Republicans want to do is waste US$5 billion in taxpayer money on an ineffective medieval border wall that is a 5th century solution to a 21st century problem", he said on ABC's "This Week".

The federal government is now in a partial shutdown over gridlock in Congress that failed to approve Trump's demand for $US5 billion dedicated to the wall's construction.

There has been little direct contact between the sides during the stalemate, and Mr Trump did not ask Republicans, who hold a monopoly on power in Washington until January 3, to keep Congress in session.

Kelly has clashed with Trump over the nature of the wall before.

"The President still says "wall" - oftentimes frankly he'll say "barrier" or "fencing", now he's tended toward steel slats".

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill added that Democrats are united against the wall and won't seriously consider any White House offer unless Trump backs it publicly because he "has changed his position so many times".

"To my Democratic friends: There will never be a deal without wall funding", Graham said.

Graham told reporters he presented Trump with the idea for a "potential breakthrough" on budget talks during their two-hour lunch at the White House on Sunday.

Lindsey Graham said Sunday he believes a compromise on border security and US immigration policy could end an impasse that has led to a partial government shutdown. She says of the negotiations: "It is with them".

Trump said on Twitter that both children who died "were very sick before they were given over to Border Patrol". "Meanwhile, the president tweets blaming everyone but himself for a shutdown he called for more than 25 times".

He was accused of "reaching new lows" after blaming the opposition party for the deaths of the two Guatemalan children, claiming they were "strictly the fault of the Democrats and their pathetic immigration policies that allow people to make the long trek thinking they can enter our country illegally". But that won't accomplish anything unless Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate go along with it. "But we left a solid concrete wall early on in the administration when we asked people what they needed and where they needed it", Kelly continued. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., indicated last week he will not hold a vote on any spending plan that Trump will not sign, meaning a solution to the shutdown will depend on a deal between Trump and Democratic leaders.

For instance, members of the US Coast Guard will receive their final paychecks of the year on Monday, the service said in a statement on its website on Friday after previously warning that payments would be delayed due to the shutdown.

Trump had lunch Sunday with Republican South Carolina Sen.

In the interim, thousands of employees of federal agencies such as the Homeland Security, Justice, Commerce, Interior, Transportation, Agriculture and other departments were staying at home on furlough or soon to be working without pay.

  • Jon Douglas