Donald Trump talks about border security with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as Vice President Mike Pence sits nearby in the Oval Office on December 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Getty/Mark Wilson)

Trump claims shutdown meeting was "productive," but threatens it could last "months – or even years"

The shutdown over $5.6 billion for border wall funding hits the two-week mark – and appears to have no end in sight


Shira Tarlo
January 4, 2019 4:29PM (UTC)

President Donald Trump and congressional leaders failed again on Friday to reach a deal to end the partial government shutdown, which began shortly before Christmas, in their latest round of negotiations. The shutdown, which hit the two-week mark, appears to have no end in sight as Trump remains unwilling to cave on his refusal to sign a spending bill that does not provide the $5.6 billion he claims is necessary to construct a "wall" along the U.S.-Mexico border.

After what they called a "sometimes contentious" meeting at the White House, Democratic leaders said Trump remained unwilling to sign a spending bill to reopen the nine unfunded federal departments unless Congress approved money for his wall along the southern border.

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"We told the president we needed the government open," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters outside the White House. "He resisted. In fact, he said he would keep it closed for a very long period of time — months or even years."

Trump, meanwhile, called the meeting "productive."

Newly elected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that, although her party is "committed to keeping our border safe," Democrats believe the priority should be to reopen the government as negotiations surrounding continue. "We really cannot resolve this until we open up government," Pelosi said. "We made that very clear to the president."

Trump on Friday sent a letter to Congress demanding a border wall ahead of his meeting with congressional leaders. "Walls work," Trump wrote. "That's why rich, powerful and successful people build them around their homes. All Americans deserve the same protection."

The president also included a copy of the presentation that lawmakers on Capitol Hill were allegedly supposed to hear during a Wednesday meeting about what the administration described as a "crisis" at the southern border. That presentation, delivered by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, was reportedly cut short when Pelosi and Schumer interrupted and redirected the conversation to how they planned to reopen the government, NBC News reported.

"Some of those present did not want to hear the presentation at the time," Trump wrote. "And so I have instead decided to make the presentation available to all members of Congress."

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As Trump and congressional Democrats continue to spar, some Republican Senators appear willing to cave and make a deal with their colleagues that does not include wall funding. Asked earlier on Friday about those Senate Republicans, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that "the president has been willing to negotiate from the beginning, but he's not going to put our national security and the safety of American people at risk . . . The president is not backing down from that."

"We have a national crisis at our border," Sanders added. "We also have a humanitarian crisis at our border, and the president is not going to back off."

Democrats, newly in control of the House of Representatives, remain insistent that they will not provide Trump with the votes to pass a spending bill that includes additional funding for the wall. "We're not doing the wall," Pelosi told reporters Thursday night. "Does anybody have any doubt that we're not doing the wall?"

In one of the first acts of the new Congress, the House passed two short-term funding bills Thursday night that would end the partial government shutdown.

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The two House bills are not expected to fail to break a bitter budget standoff and bring Congress closer to reopening the nine unfunded federal departments, as the measures do not include additional border wall funding. Trump has vowed to reject any bill that does not include U.S. taxpayer dollars toward the wall he repeatedly vowed Mexico would pay for during his 2016 presidential campaign. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said the upper chamber would not consider the bills, since he only wants to call a vote on a funding measure Trump would sign — a stance that could mean the government shutdown drags on for days, or possibly even weeks.

Trump on Wednesday admitted the reason the federal government remains only partially operational is because of his ego, confessing that he would "look foolish" if he allowed the government to reopen while wall funding was being negotiated.

As hundreds of thousands of federal workers continue to work without a paycheck, Trump has not spent the majority of the shutdown negotiating an end game, instead blaming Democrats for the shutdown he previously said he was proud to own.

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"I am proud to shut down the government for border security . . . I will be the one to shut [the government] down," Trump famously said last month. "I'm not going to blame you for it."

He also alleged that the thousands of workers either furloughed or working without pay "are Democrats" — just days after he claimed that "many" of those government employees told him they were fine with not getting paid so long as Congress does not fund his long-promised wall. (Both claims were offered without supporting evidence.)


Shira Tarlo

Contact Shira Tarlo at shira.tarlo@salon.com. Follow @shiratarlo.

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