President Donald Trump stormed out of a White House meeting with congressional leaders on Thursday (AEDT) after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would not fund a border wall even if he agreed to reopen the government, escalating a confrontation that has closed large portions of the government for 19 days and counting.
Stunned Democrats emerged from the meeting in the White House Situation Room declaring the president had thrown a “temper tantrum” and slammed his hands on the table before leaving with an abrupt “bye-bye”. Republicans disputed the hand slam and blamed Democratic intransigence for prolonging the standoff.
When the meeting was over, talks to reopen the government appeared to be in disarray. The contentious, brief and futile session underscored an impasse that is looking each day like an insurmountable gulf between the two sides. Trump will visit the border Thursday (Friday AEDT) in McAllen, Texas, leaving little hope of a resolution for a shutdown that will tie the longest in the nation’s history on Friday.”It wasn’t even a high-stakes negotiation; it was a petulant president of the United States,” Pelosi said as she returned to the Capitol. “A person who would say, ‘I’ll keep government shut down for weeks, months or years unless I get my way’.”
Trump called the exercise “a total waste of time”.
“I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier? Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye,” he posted on Twitter.
Day 19 had begun with what looked like signs of splintering support within the president’s own party. Senator Lisa Murkowski pledged to confront Trump in a closed-door lunch at the Capitol, while more mainline conservatives like Senator Pat Roberts expressed misgivings about the president’s strategy.
But those differences largely had been papered over by day’s end. The House voted 240-188 to fund the Treasury Department, the IRS, the Securities and Exchange Commission and other agencies, including White House operations. The eight Republican defections exceeded last week’s vote to fund the government by only a single vote.Trump, for his part, held out the possibility that he might declare a national emergency to build his promised border wall and circumvent Congress altogether – a deeply divisive option even within his own party that could allow him to use money allocated for the military and one that would almost certain be challenged in court.
“There was no discussion about anything other than solidarity,” Trump said after his lunch with Senate Republicans and before the White House negotiating session.
As the sides feuded, 800,000 federal workers were going without pay, and government agencies continued to reduce services, part of the cascading effect of a partial shutdown now possibly headed for a fourth week.
So frayed were feelings after a frantic 24-hour period of accusations and recriminations, including duelling nationally televised addresses, that Republicans and Democrats emerged from the White House meeting unable to agree on what had happened in the room.
On this they did: Trump insisted again on $US5.7 billion ($8b) in border wall funding, and asked Democrats, who he pointed out had supported money for physical barriers in the past, if they would capitulate if he agreed to reopen the government. Democrats told him again that they support increased funding for border security, but refused to commit additional money for a physical barrier they believe is a waste of money. They laid out what they said was unnecessary damage being done to federal workers.
“You are using people as leverage; why won’t you open the government and stop hurting people?” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, asked Trump at one point during the meeting, according to Democratic congressional officials and a White House official familiar with the exchange.