WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump says he's ready to negotiate with Democrats to end the partial government shutdown, which is now entering its eleventh day.
"I'm here. I'm ready to go. It's very important," the president told Fox News in a phone interview. "A lot of people are looking to get their paycheck, and so I'm ready to go anytime they want."
The federal government has been partially shuttered since Dec. 22, with lawmakers unable to come to an agreement over Trump's demand for $5 billion in funding for a wall along America's southern border.
"We have no choice," Trump said. "We have to have border security, and a wall is part of border security."
The news comes one day after outgoing Chief of Staff John Kelly said in an interview with the LA Times that funding for a concrete wall along the entire border was already off the table.
"The president still says 'wall' — oftentimes frankly he'll say 'barrier' or 'fencing'; now he's tended toward steel slats," Kelly told the Times. "But we left a solid concrete wall early on in the administration when we asked people what they needed and where they needed it."
However, the president contradicted that claim Monday.
"An all concrete Wall was NEVER ABANDONED, as has been reported by the media," Trump tweeted. "Some areas will be all concrete but the experts at Border Patrol prefer a Wall that is see through (thereby making it possible to see what is happening on both sides). Makes sense to me!"
Citing the wall the Obamas had constructed around their Washington, DC home, the president argued a similar move was necessary to preserve the America's sovereign borders.
"President and Mrs. Obama built/has a ten foot Wall around their D.C. mansion/compound. I agree, totally necessary for their safety and security. The U.S. needs the same thing, slightly larger version!" he added.
Meanwhile, federal workers are suing over the shutdown, suggesting the requirement that essential employees – particularly those responsible for ensuring public safety – report to work without pay is grossly unfair.
American Federation of Government Employees, one of the largest federal workforce unions, announced the lawsuit Monday.
"Our members put their lives on the line to keep our country safe," AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. told ABC News. "Requiring them to work without pay is nothing short of inhumane."
House Democrats are expected to pass two bills aimed at ending the shutdown once the new Congress convenes Thursday, The Associated Press reports. Whether or not the GOP-led Senate will take up the legislation or if the president will sign them into law remains to be seen.