President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders sparred throughout the day Tuesday, complicating already-difficult efforts to avert a government shutdown next week.
Talks to fund the government will continue, and the clash does not appear to indicate any bigger breach between Democrats and the White House. But it’s not clear when both sides will be truly ready to deal.
The fight began early with Trump launching a broadside against House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Twitter. By day’s end, Trump and Schumer were each predicting the other would be blamed if the government shut down.
Trump tweeted Tuesday morning that Pelosi and Schumer “want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked, are weak on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes,” adding, “I don’t see a deal!”
The Democratic leaders responded by canceling their plans to meet with Trump and GOP leaders at the White House to discuss a deal to keep the government open.
“Given that the president doesn’t see a deal between Democrats and the White House, we believe the best path forward is to continue negotiating with our Republican counterparts in Congress instead,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement. “If the President, who already said earlier this year that ‘our country needs a good shutdown,’ isn’t interested in addressing the difficult year end agenda, we’ll work with those Republicans who are, as we did in April.”
Schumer and Pelosi said they asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to meet Tuesday afternoon instead, a request the GOP leaders rebuffed.
“Democrats are putting government operations, particularly resources for our men and women on the battlefield, at great risk by pulling these antics,” McConnell and Ryan said in a statement. “There is a meeting at the White House this afternoon, and if Democrats want to reach an agreement, they will be there.”
Ryan and McConnell attended the meeting and did not hide their displeasure with Pelosi and Schumer for withdrawing from the highly anticipated powwow.
“That strikes me as a lack of seriousness about the matter before us, which is the funding of the federal government of the United States for the rest of the fiscal year,” McConnell told reporters shortly before heading to the White House.
Trump sat next to empty chairs — marked with name cards — that were meant for the Democratic leaders, and slammed the missing lawmakers in comments to reporters.
“They’ve been all talk and they’ve been no action, and now it’s even worse,” Trump said. “Now it’s not even talk.”
Congressional leaders have declined to say how long of a short-term funding patch would be needed to avert a government shutdown on Dec. 8, although it’s expected to be at least a couple of weeks to give appropriators enough time to write complex omnibus spending legislation.
“I’m very hopeful we can avoid a shutdown,” Schumer told reporters. “Our Republican colleagues have shown in the past that they know with them in charge, a shutdown falls on their back. They’re running the show. The American people know they’re running the show.”
Trump, however, said he would try to pin a shutdown on Democrats.
“If that happens, I would absolutely blame the Democrats,” he said. “If it happens, it’s going to be over illegals pouring into the country, crime pouring into the country, no border wall.”
Schumer and Pelosi’s pullout from the White House meeting ratchets up tensions with a president who in September appeared to revel in positive news coverage of a three-month deal he reached with Democrats to keep the government open. Trump harkened back to that earlier, brief period of friendlier relations with the duo by calling them “Chuck and Nancy” in his Twitter attack early Tuesday, only to declare that this time a deal was unlikely.
Before Pelosi and Schumer backed out of the meeting, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) pointedly declined to endorse Trump’s comments on Twitter.
“The president speaks for himself,” Cornyn told reporters.
Even so, Trump’s move to draw a hard line on immigration promises to embolden conservatives who want to see funding for his long-promised border wall. Democrats, for their part, are pushing to approve relief for the young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers before the end of the year — an issue that the GOP wants to consider separately from a spending deal.
While Democrats stress that they still want to work with McConnell and Ryan, the two parties are still far apart on an agreement to disburse domestic and defense spending for the coming year.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) also endorsed Pelosi and Schumer’s decision on Tuesday, flashing a thumbs-up to reporters. After seeing Trump’s Tuesday morning tweet, Hoyer said, he thought: “Mr. President, you’re on your own.”
Kyle Cheney contributed to this report.
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