A day after addressing the nation on the need for more money to deal with border security, President Donald Trump walked out of a meeting at the White House with top Democratic leaders, after they again rejected his call for Congress to approve money to build a wall along the border with Mexico, a plan that President repeatedly promised during the 2016 campaign would be paid for by the Mexican government.
“The President just got up and walked out,” said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, who told reporters outside the West Wing of the White House that Mr. Trump was angered by the refusal of Democrats to give in on his demands for wall money.
“He asked Speaker Pelosi, ‘Will you agree to my wall?’ she said, no,” Schumer told reporters. “And he just got up, and said ‘Then we have nothing to discuss,’ and just walked out.”
Democrats have held fast to their refusal to agree to any money for a border wall – while Republicans say it must be part of any plan to combat illegal immigration along the southern border, as on Day 19 of the partial government shutdown, there seems to be no middle ground to end this dispute.
In a tweet, President Trump confirmed what Democrats told reporters – that he left the meeting after being told by Pelosi that Democrats would not agree to Mr. Trump’s call for money to fund a border wall.
The President labeled the meeting a ‘total waste of time,’ as Republicans accused Democrats of not bargaining in good faith – Democrats say they won’t negotiate details of funding for border security until the government has been fully re-opened, while the President says he won’t re-open the government until he knows he’s getting money for the wall.
That led to fireworks in the White House Situation Room.
The dustup came as the House was starting votes on a series of spending bills – all of which had been designed by Senators in both parties last year – in a bid to re-open the federal government.
While GOP leaders ridiculed the process, vowing not to vote on those bills in the Senate, more Republicans began to say they would support the measures, because of pressure from back home to fully open up the government.
Earlier, the President met with GOP Senators at the Capitol, and sent them a clear message.
“Stick together,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).
But there were dissenting voices, as Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and others said keeping the government closed was not the right choice.
800,000 federal workers are either on furlough or are being forced to work without pay at this point – many are scheduled to get a paycheck this Friday – but that seems unlikely.
On Capitol Hill, there was speculation that the failure of the talks would lead the President to declare a ‘national emergency,’ and attempt to move money around in the defense budget to fund the construction of some of the wall.
While a number of Republicans oppose that plan, such a declaration could give cover to Republicans in the House and Senate to then vote to re-open the government, and end the partial shutdown.