After a meeting with President Donald Trump that congressional Democratic leaders called “contentious”, they said the president refused to consider offers to reopen the government that did not address his bottom line — $5.6 billion to build a wall along the border with Mexico.
“We told the president we needed the government open. He resisted. In fact, he said he’d keep the government closed for a very long period of time, months or even years,” Sen. Chuck Schumer said. “The bottom line is very simple. We made a plea to the president, once again — don’t hold millions of Americans, hundreds of thousands of workers, hostage.”
The president later confirmed that he did say that, but he adopted a far more optimistic view about a path forward toward a compromise with Democrats, agreeing that meetings are contentious.
“We had a very, very productive meeting and I think we’ve come a long way,” Trump said. “We want $5.6 billion very strongly, because numbers are thrown around, 1.6 2.1 1.5. This is national security we’re talking about. We’re not talking about games.”
Trump said he’s “very proud of doing what he has to do for the benefit and safety of the country,” noting the crisis at the southern border, illustrated in his pinned tweet, is “a much bigger problem” than the shutdown. Democrats, including Congressman Frank Pallone, point to how the shutdown’s affecting people’s lives.
“It’s a bad situation, and its impacting services as well,” Pallone said. “Impacts on the Coast Guard, impacts on the Environmental Protection Agency, the list goes on. So I just hope that the president comes to his senses and ultimately agrees that we should fund the federal government and reopen these federal agencies.”
Pallone joined colleagues in the House Thursday night to approve resolutions that would fund government agencies impacted by the shutdown through September. Homeland Security would be funded by a separate bill just through Feb 8. New Jersey’s Chris Smith objected for pro-life reasons.
“Taxpayers should not be forced to fund the organizations that are promoting abortion overseas,” Smith said.
But Democrats noted the bills had passed the Senate before — with the majority leader’s approval — and admonished Mitch McConnell to use his influence with Trump.
“Left to his own devices, President Trump can keep the government shut down for a long time,” Schumer said during a Senate hearing Thursday night. “The president needs intervention, and Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans are just the right ones to intervene.”
“Any viable compromise will need to carry the endorsement of the president before it receives a vote in either house of Congress. Under these conditions, Mr. President, the package presented by House’s new Democratic leaders yesterday can only be seen as a time-wasting act of political posturing,” McConnell said earlier Thursday night.
The president said both sides are sending representatives to a meeting over the weekend to look for funding for the wall and a way to end the government shutdown, noting, “I think it’s going to be over sooner than most people think.” Democrats are not so much optimistic.