WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) emerged from their Oval Office sit-down with President Trump with a brief, joint statement about the disputed border wall funding.
“We gave the president two options that would keep the government open,” Pelosi and Schumer said. “It’s his choice to accept one of those options or shut the government down.”
The continuing resolution, used as a stopgap measure to keep the government open, expires just before Christmas. The House and Senate have reached agreement on everything except border wall funding.
The House included $5 billion for border security in its funding bill, while the Senate version includes $1.6 billion. Trump wants $25 billion; Congress has not yet approved any money to begin work on any of the wall prototypes Trump was shown in California earlier this year and has not approved any concrete wall. Construction projects announced by the administration have consisted of renovations and improvements to existing fence lines.
The disagreement escalated into an on-camera spat as Trump began an exchange with reporters by stating of all pending legislative business a border wall “will be the one that will be the easiest of all. What do you think, Chuck? Maybe not.”
“I’d like not to see a government closing, a shutdown. We will see what happens over the next short period of time. But the wall is a very important thing to us. I might put it a different way. Border security is extremely important, and we have to take care of border security when you look at what happened with the caravans and the people and a lot of people,” Trump said. “We shut it down. We had no choice. We shut it down. But it could be a lot easier if we had real border security.”
Asked to say a few words, Pelosi noted, “I think the American people recognize that we must keep government open, that a shutdown is not worth anything, and that you should not have a Trump shutdown.”
“I don’t think we should have a debate in front of the press on this, but the fact is, the House Republicans could bring up this bill if they had the votes immediately and set the tone for what you want,” she said as they fired back and forth on whether a border wall has the votes.
“Nancy, I’d have it passed in two seconds. It doesn’t matter though, because can’t get it passed in the Senate because we need 10 Democrat votes. That’s the problem,” Trump said. “…It doesn’t help for me to take a vote in the House where I will win easily with the Republicans.”
“You will not win,” Pelosi replied.
“You say, I want to shut down the government. We don’t. We want to come to an agreement. If we can’t come to an agreement, we have solutions that will pass the House and Senate right now and will not shut down the government, and that’s what we’re urging you to do, not threaten to shut down the government,” Schumer said.
“If it’s not good border security, I won’t take it,” Trump said. “…We’re going to keep it open if we have border security. If we don’t have border security, Chuck, we’re not going to keep it open.”
“If we don’t get what we want one way or the other, whether it’s through you, through a military, through anything you want to call, I will shut down the government, absolutely,” the president declared.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders issued a readout of the closed-door portion of the meeting, calling their dialogue on criminal-justice reform and the Farm Bill “constructive” while “major disagreement remains on the issue of border security and transparency.”
“President Trump made clear that any government funding measure must include responsible border security, including a wall, to protect the American people from drugs, crime, terrorism, public health threats, and the severe straining of the social safety net,” Sanders said.
Schumer told reporters after the meeting that “the bottom line is simple — the president made clear that he wants a shutdown.”
The two options Democrats gave Trump were to extend all seven appropriations bills with a continuing resolution or pass six of them while using a continuing resolution to extend the disputed homeland security bill.
“We hope he’ll take it because a shutdown hurts too many innocent people and this Trump shutdown, this temper tantrum that he seems to throw, will not get him his wall and it’ll hurt a lot of people because he will cause a shutdown,” Schumer said. “He admitted he wanted to shut down. It’s hard to believe that he would want that.”
“We didn’t come here to divide, we came here to unify and we extend that hand of friendship to him, which he seemed to like that course of action,” Pelosi told reporters. “If he does not accept that hand of friendship, we still will be who we are, dignified, respectful of the institution that we represent in the Congress, and honoring the vision of our founders.”