President Donald Trump held a meeting at the White House with congressional leaders of both parties on Wednesday in an effort to find solutions to the ongoing partial government shutdown — with little success thus far.
“We know we have a challenge along the border,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said after leaving the meeting.
“We want to solve that issue and we want to make sure to open the government up. And I think at the end of the day the president, listening to him — he wants to solve this issue as well. That’s why he asked us to come back [on] Friday.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also attended the meeting; the latter is expected to become the next speaker when the new session starts on Thursday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Steve Scalise (R-La.) also attended the meeting.
The partial government shutdown began following a disagreement on border wall funding on December 22.
Democratic leaders have resisted giving any funds at all for the border wall — while the president has pushed for $5 billion.
Trump’s meeting with congressional leaders occurred during the second week of the shutdown.
“The bottom line is very simple,” Schumer told reporters after the meeting.
“We asked the president to support the bills that we support that will open up government. We asked him to give us one good reason. I asked him directly, I said, ‘Mr. President, give me one good reason why you should continue your shutdown of the eight Cabinet departments while we are debating on differences on Homeland Security.’ He could not give a good answer,” said Schumer.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen also attended the meeting to give a briefing on the situation on the southern border.
A surge of migrants over the past year — many seeking asylum — have turned up at the southern border.
These individuals, in some cases encouraged by others, have made the long trip from their home countries and have gathered along the border waiting for their claims to be processed. But tensions have flared; in a recent incident, Border Patrol agents sprayed tear gas at migrants who were throwing rocks and trying to cross the border illegally.
“Once the secretary had started [her remarks], Sen. Schumer interrupted her — they really didn’t want to hear it,” McCarthy also said afterward.
“They [the Democrats] challenged some of the points the secretary made. We were hopeful we would get more of the negotiation done. I know the vice president had sat down with Sen. Schumer, had given him papers and had tried to reach an agreement, [to] find common ground. I hoped we would be able to do more of that today, but hopefully Friday we’ll get there,” he also said.
Democratic leaders proposed a package of two bills to end the impasse on December 31. The package would fund the rest of the federal government, with the exception of the Department of Homeland Security.
That department would instead be temporarily funded through February 8 to give both sides time to reach a deal on border security. Trump rejected the proposal because it doesn’t include border wall funding.
“Tomorrow we will bring to the floor legislation that will reopen the government,” Pelosi said after the meeting. “It will be based on actions taken by the Republican Senate — bills that have passed on the floor of the Senate by over 90 votes or in committee unanimously, led by Sen. Mitch McConnell. It will also present in a separate bill the continuing resolution McConnell did for Homeland Security until February 8th.”
Trump reaffirmed his commitment to funding the border wall during a Cabinet discussion hours before he met with congressional leaders.
The president said the government shutdown could last a long time.
He added the shutdown could also end fairly quickly — but that it’s up to the Democrats.
The shutdown came after several failed attempts to avoid it between meetings and temporary spending proposals.
McConnell introduced a continuing resolution days before the shutdown to keep the government funded at current levels until February 8.
The bill eventually failed after facing opposition from within the party like the House Freedom Caucus.
Trump said he would take the blame for the shutdown in the name of border security during an earlier contentious meeting with Democratic leaders pm December 11. But he later argued the Democrats would be at fault if they didn’t vote for border security. Schumer has instead insisted the shutdown is the fault of the president.
Schumer had previously said he was only willing to provide the $1.6 billion for border security.
But those funds cannot go to the construction of a border wall. He later reduced that figure to $1.3 billion during a highly contentious meeting with the president. Trump rejected both counter offers.
Congress was able to fund most of the government months earlier but still has seven spending bills remaining. Lawmakers already had to pass a continuing resolution to fund the federal government for two weeks to avoid a shutdown on December 7. An earlier spending bill also included a continuing resolution that extended the original deadline on September 30.
Separately on Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told Fox News Channel’s Neil Cavuto about today’s White House meeting and all of the commentary around it, “Lost in all this about the wall is [that] the Democrats’ position right now is zero dollars for the wall. Every one of them voted for $25 billion for a wall last year. So, certainly, there is some kind of compromise to be had. The president’s asking for $5 billion and the Democrats are [at] zero. Certainly, somewhere in between the two, there can be a compromise made,” he added on “Your World with Neil Cavuto.”
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