WASHINGTON -- Talks among President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats aimed at ending a partial government shutdown collapsed Wednesday, with Democrats accusing the president of walking out and Trump calling the meeting "a total waste of time."
The president is to visit the southern border today, and he has expressed doubts that his appearance and remarks will change any minds.
During the White House meeting, Democrats once again pressed Trump to reopen part of the government. Trump refused, instead asking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., whether she would agree to fund his wall.
When Pelosi said "no," Trump exited the meeting in the White House Situation Room.
"Well, unfortunately, the president just got up and walked out," said Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. "He asked Speaker Pelosi, 'Will you agree to my wall?' She said no. And he just got up and said, 'Then we have nothing to discuss,' and he just walked out. Again, we saw a temper tantrum."
Trump tweeted: "Just left a meeting with Chuck and Nancy, 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, nothing else works!"
The Democrats see the wall as ineffective and think it would not be a good use of the $5.7 billion Trump is seeking. He sees it as an absolute necessity to stop what he calls a crisis of illegal immigration, drug-smuggling and human trafficking at the border.
"The president made clear today that he is going to stand firm to achieve his priorities to build a wall -- a steel barrier -- at the southern border," Vice President Mike Pence told reporters afterward.
That insistence and Trump's walking out were "really, really unfortunate," said Schumer.
It was not clear when, or if, negotiations will begin anew. On Saturday, the partial government shutdown will become the longest continuous shutdown in U.S. history.
Some 800,000 federal workers are about to lose their first paychecks since being furloughed or working without guaranteed pay. Services have been curtailed across agencies from the IRS to the Agriculture Department to the National Park Service.
At the time of the meeting, Trump had just returned from Capitol Hill, where he urged congressional Republicans to hold firm with him.
He discussed the possibility of an immigration compromise with Democrats to protect some migrants from deportation but provided no clear strategy or timeline for resolving the standoff, according to senators in the private session.
After the meeting with Republicans, Trump declared that the party is "totally unified" on keeping the government partially shuttered until a deal on a border wall is reached.
"There was no discussion of anything other than solidarity," Trump told reporters, joined by Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other Senate Republicans.
Trump insisted at the White House, "I didn't want this fight." But it was his rejection of a bipartisan spending bill late last month that blindsided leaders in Congress who are now seeking a resolution to the shutdown.
That unity was tested late Wednesday when the House passed a spending bill, 240-188, to reopen one shuttered department, Treasury, to ensure that tax refunds and other financial services continue. Eight Republicans joined Democrats in voting, defying the plea to stick with the White House.
All four members of the House from Arkansas voted against the measure.
Ahead of his visit to Capitol Hill, Trump renewed his notice that he might declare a national emergency and try to authorize the wall on his own if Congress won't approve the money he's seeking.
"I think we might work a deal, and if we don't I might go that route," he said.
There's growing concern about the toll the shutdown is taking on everyday Americans, including disruptions in payments to farmers and trouble for homebuyers who are seeking government-backed mortgage loans -- "serious stuff," according to Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, was among several senators who questioned Trump at the Capitol.
"I addressed the things that are very local to us -- it's not just those who don't receive a federal paycheck perhaps on Friday but there are other consequences," she said, mentioning the inability to certify weight scales for selling fish.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said "the president thinks there will be increasing pressure on everybody to come to the table once people start missing their paycheck."
Earlier, Cornyn called the standoff "completely unnecessary and contrived. People expect their government to work. ... This obviously is not working."
Like other Republicans, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said she wants border security. But she said there was "no way" the shutdown fight will drag on for years as Trump warned last week.
"I think certainly I have expressed more than a few times the frustrations with a government shutdown and how useless it is," Capito said Tuesday. "That pressure is going to build."
Democrats said before the White House meeting that they would ask Trump to accept an earlier bipartisan bill that had money for border security but not the wall. Pelosi warned that the effects of hundreds of thousands of lost paychecks would begin to ripple across the economy.
"The president could end the Trump shutdown and reopen the government today, and he should," Pelosi said.
But the meeting breakup put an end to that idea.
Tuesday night, speaking to the nation from the Oval Office for the first time, Trump argued that the wall was needed to resolve a security and humanitarian "crisis." He blamed illegal immigration for what he said was a scourge of drugs and violence in the U.S. and asked: "How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?"
Democrats in response accused Trump of appealing to "fear, not facts" and manufacturing a border crisis for political gain.
A growing number of Republicans are uncomfortable with the toll the partial shutdown is taking and Trump's response to it. They are particularly concerned about the administration's talk of possibly declaring a national emergency at the border, seeing that as an unprecedented claim on the right of Congress to allocate funding except in the most dire circumstances.
"I prefer that we get this resolved the old-fashioned way," Thune said.
2ND UNION SUIT
At a bill-signing event Wednesday, Trump heaped praise on furloughed workers, calling them "terrific patriots" and repeating his claim that they support him shutting down the government over the border wall.
"They're all going to get their money, and I think they're going to be happy. ... You take a look at social media. So many of those people are saying, 'It's very hard for me. It's very hard for my family. But Mr. President, you're doing the right thing,'" Trump said.
Earlier Wednesday, Pelosi accused Trump of having "chosen a wall over workers" as she and Schumer staged a news conference with furloughed federal employees.
"The people behind me represent the real human collateral damage of President Trump's shutdown," Schumer said at the event. "To use them as hostages through a temper tantrum by the president, it's just so wrong. It's so unfair. It's so mean-spirited. And it ought to end now."
"My message to President Trump and my Republican colleagues is simple: Our federal workers just want to do their jobs. It's time that you do yours," Schumer said.
Meanwhile, the National Treasury Employees Union became the second federal employees' union to file a lawsuit against the Trump administration over the shutdown.
Tuesday's collective action alleges that more than 400,000 federal employees -- including tens of thousands of union members -- are being forced to work without pay during the partial government closure.
The complaint asked that the named plaintiff, Customs and Border Protection Officer Albert Vieira, and other similarly classified individuals be paid owed wages.
The government stalemate began Dec. 22. Since then, many federal agencies have temporarily closed and workers' compensation has been indefinitely delayed because of a lapse in appropriated funds. Even so, employees deemed "essential" or "excepted" have been expected to go to work. "Essential" government employees are those -- like Vieira -- who are "performing emergency work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property."
The Department of Homeland Security deployed Vieira to the southwest border in November. The transfer was part of an "agencywide initiative to combat illegal immigration," according to court documents. Vieira is scheduled to remain there until Sunday.
Separately, Mark Morgan, a career FBI official who served as Border Patrol chief for the last six months of President Barack Obama's administration before being removed once Trump took office, has come out this week in support of a border wall.
Morgan, who has kept a low profile since he was forced to step down, first gave an interview to Law and Crime in which he defended the White House's desire to build a wall along the U.S. southern border.
The morning after Trump reiterated in his prime-time address to the nation why wall funding was worth shutting down 25 percent of the federal government, Morgan told The Washington Post that he's breaking his silence because, in his view, the wall is an important piece in a group of policy changes needed to secure the border.
"I was removed. I'm standing up and saying, 'I should have disdain for them, but I don't because they are right,'" Morgan said. "I can stand up and say they are right because it's the right thing to do for this country. I'm begging the president to stay the course."
Information for this article was contributed by Catherine Lucey, Lisa Mascaro, Laurie Kellman, Jill Colvin, Colleen Long, Alan Fram and Deb Riechmann of The Associated Press; and by Erica Werner, Sean Sullivan, Mike DeBonis, Seung Min Kim, Paul Kane, David Weigel, Karoun Demirjian, Jenna Portnoy, John Wagner, Felicia Sonmez, Deanna Paul and Colby Itkowitz of The Washington Post.
A Section on 01/10/2019
Print Headline: Shutdown talks disintegrate; Pelosi says no on wall and Trump up, walks out