A partial government shutdown showed no signs of ending Wednesday as congressional leaders left what appeared to be an unproductive meeting with President Trump.
Before and after the meeting, there was little talk of compromise as Trump and Democrats battled over his demand for border-wall funding, all but assuring the shutdown will barrel into a third week.
Trump invited congressional leaders back to the White House for another round of talks on Friday, the day after Democrats assume the House majority, according to House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) But it remains unclear how they will resolve the funding impasse.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said she planned to move ahead with a plan to vote Thursday on a spending bill without funding for a border wall, upon formally taking control of the House from Trump’s fellow Republicans.
“We are asking the president to open up the government,” Pelosi said outside the White House following the meeting. “We are giving him a Republican path to do that. Why would he not do it?”
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he asked Trump directly to give him “one good reason” why he would not accept Pelosi’s offer to reopen the government while border talks continued and claimed the president could not come up with one.
“I would look foolish if I did that,” Trump responded, according to a source familiar with what happened in the room.
The shutdown began on Dec. 22 after Democrats refused to agree to Trump's demand for more than $5 billion in funding for a wall on the Mexican border, one of his biggest unfulfilled campaign promises.
Trump last month supported a funding bill without wall money, but abandoned his stance amid a barrage of criticism from pro-Trump pundits on cable news.
The White House and congressional Republicans have said the plan proposed by House Democrats for reopening the government is a non-starter.
It would fund most of the closed parts of the government through the end of the fiscal year, while only funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through Feb. 8 to buy more time to negotiate over border security.
DHS is in charge of patrolling the border and legal ports of entry.
“I don’t think any particular progress was made today,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who reiterated he would not put the House Democrats’ bill on the floor for a vote because Trump will not sign it.
“We're hopeful that somehow in the coming days and weeks we'll be able to reach an agreement,” he added, suggesting the shutdown could be quite lengthy.
Ahead of the meeting, Trump said he would not hesitate to keep government agencies shuttered “as long as it takes” to secure wall funding.
“It could be a long time, and it could be quickly,” Trump said in heated remarks that lasted 95 minutes during a Cabinet meeting. “It's too important a subject to walk away from.”
The contentious meeting showed both sides are digging in even as the shutdown entered its 12th day.
Pelosi stressed that her plan closely mirrored the spending bill that the Republican-controlled Senate passed last month before Trump reneged and demanded border-wall funding.
But GOP leaders said Trump was unwilling to back down.
“The problem with what Nancy Pelosi is talking about bringing up doesn't change the status quo. It doesn't add a dime to border security,” House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (La.) told reporters in the Capitol. “If they are not playing political games, they need to put a credible offer on the table that the president can sign.”
Republican and Democratic lawmakers gathered on Wednesday afternoon in the White House Situation Room, a place typically reserved for high-level military or security briefings.
They heard from Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and other DHS officials, who painted a bleak picture of the situation at the southwest border and argued that illegal immigration poses a national security threat.
Members described the discussion as more of an informational briefing and less of a proffer session, which apparently upset some Democrats.
McCarthy accused Schumer of interrupting Nielsen and challenging some of her arguments. Sources familiar with the meeting did not dispute the account but said Pelosi also cut off Nielsen.
“I was a little disappointed, I would say, with some on the other side,” said McCarthy.
But Democrats said their time would be better spent trying to end the shutdown, which House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) called a “stupid public policy” that affects 800,000 federal workers.
“I think Secretary Nielsen and perhaps others presume that we don't know what the status is on the border,” Hoyer told reporters at the Capitol. “The crisis that they want to state at the border, we don't think it exists.”
Wednesday marked the first meeting between Trump, Schumer, and Pelosi since Dec. 11, when the president declared during a dramatic, televised Oval Office argument that he would be “proud to shut down the government” over border security.
Trump, however, has since tried to blame Democrats for the funding lapse.
“We are in a shutdown because Democrats refuse to fund border security,” he said Wednesday, accusing them of playing politics because they have an eye “on 2020.”
McCarthy said he watched the president “stay very calm throughout the entire discussion” while he made his case for the wall.
No matter how the shutdown impasse is resolved, the wall is likely to be a central irritant in Trump’s relationships with congressional Democrats this year.
The president believes the shutdown has put Pelosi on the defensive by making her discuss an issue that is important to his 2020 reelection race instead of her legislative priorities.
But the Speaker-to-be, who is facing pressure from the left not to deal with Trump, has little incentive to compromise on the wall.
“How many more times can we say no? Nothing for the wall,” she said in an interview set to air Thursday on NBC News’s “Today” show.
The $5 billion Trump is requesting would only cover a fraction of the funding needed to build the wall, which is estimated to cost between $25 billion and $30 billion.
Trump last year turned down an immigration deal that would have provided $25 billion for border security, including wall funding.
The president has repeatedly said that Mexico would eventually pay for the wall, but has declined to say how that would work. The Mexican government has said it will not fund the wall.