SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mitt Romney says there's a "good chance" President Donald Trump declares a national emergency on the southern border to bypass Congress to fund a wall, but warned it could set a bad precedent.
Romney, R-Utah, said Trump did not discuss invoking emergency powers with GOP lawmakers in a meeting Wednesday, but they all came away convinced the president won't budge on building a wall.
"He has staked out his position and he wants to build a border barrier. That's something I concur with, by the way," Romney said on KSL Newsradio's "Dave & Dujanovic" show. He said a border fence "makes all the sense in the world."
Trump told reporters Thursday before heading to Texas to visit the border in person that he's close to a decision if talks with Democrats to end the 20-day government shutdown continue to fall apart.
"I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency. I haven't done it yet," he said. "If this doesn't work out, probably I will do it, I would almost say definitely."
Romney said if Trump declares a state of emergency, the Democrats will have lost an opportunity to get things they want through negotiation.
"And I think we Republicans will be concerned that this kind of approach could be used by perhaps a Democrat president in the future, and that's not something we want to see either," he said.
Not only is Trump dug in but so are the Democrats, Romney said.
"The right approach is for there to be some kind of deal that can be done where both sides get something that they feel is important," the senator said. "But I don't see movement to suggest that's about to happen."
Like may Republicans, including those in the Utah delegation, Romney pointed out that Democrats, including former President Barack Obama, have supported building the existing 650 miles of barriers at the border.
"But they're opposed to a border wall now that President Trump is the president," Romney said. "Regardless of what you think about the particular president, you would hope that your policy thoughts, that your principles on a topic would override what you might think about the person bringing them forward."
The right approach is for there to be some kind of deal that can be done where both sides get something that they feel is important. But I don't see movement to suggest that's about to happen.
–Sen. Mitt Romney
Romney said he doesn't know when the government will reopen and there is pressure building on both sides. He said he is among Republicans trying to bridge the gap with Democrats.
He mentioned the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy as a possible area of compromise, but declined to talk about specifics, saying, "You don't want to show cracks in your defensive position."
Ultimately, the barrier must be extended, Romney said, and at the same time, Congress needs to deal with DACA.
DACA recipients are often referred to as "Dreamers" because of other legislation that aimed to grant legal status to children brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents.
"We're not going to throw them out of the country, so there's ground here to reach an outcome that's good for both parties and that's good for the country," Romney said.
Democrats, he said, are in an "awkward" position having voted for border walls in the past and now saying it's immoral to build any more.
"That just doesn't fly," Romney said.
Democrats, he said, "have painted themselves into a corner and they're having a hard time getting themselves out of that corner."