Tensions were evident at the White House on Tuesday, as Democratic Congressional representatives sought to speak with President Donald Trump about the looming government funding crisis.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California), who is likely to become the next Speaker of the House, and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York), the Senate Minority Leader, met with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence before reporters at the White House.
In general, these sorts of meetings before the media are meant to act as a prologue to discussions about an issue, and usually take place before all parties involved meet behind closed doors. Trump, Pelosi, and Schumer, however, took a different direction, immediately clashing with one another when they made statements in front of the cameras, per reporting from NBC News.
The government shutdown will happen on December 21 if Congress — and the president — cannot come to an agreeable spending bill to continue funding. At issue is a border wall, which Trump has said he insists upon having be included in the spending proposal.
In a bout of drama before cameras, Trump, Pelosi, and Schumer went back-and-forth on the issue, several times interrupting one another about the topic at hand. At several points during the discussion, Pelosi asked that the discussion take place off-camera.
At another point in the talks, Schumer urged the president not to draw so hard a line in the sand.
“We shouldn’t shut down the government over a dispute,” Schumer said.
Trump immediately went on the offensive, suggesting that it was Schumer’s fault the last time the government was shut down earlier this year. “The last time Chuck, you shut it down… I don’t want to do what you did,” Trump said.
Schumer disagreed with the president, but pointed out that this time around it was Trump who was holding the government’s funding back, on the issue of the border wall. “Twenty times you have called for, ‘I will shut down the government if I don’t get my wall,'” Schumer pointed out. “You said it.”
Trump refused to budge, and said that he’d be happy to see a government shutdown if he doesn’t get the wall funding he wants. While doing so, he reiterated claims that most of the undocumented immigrants coming into the nation could be stopped by a border wall, and that those undocumented immigrants were criminals.
“I’ll take it. you know what i’ll say? Yes, if we don’t get what we want… I will shut down the government. I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck, because the people of this county don’t want criminals, people that have lots of problems, and drugs pouring into our country.”
Following the meeting, Schumer told reporters that they were hopeful Trump would take a different direction than what he said he would during their very public argument.
“We gave the president two ways, each of which will get a majority in the House and 60 votes in the Senate and will avoid a shutdown,” Schumer said, per a Twitter message from Wall Street Journal reporter Vivian Salama. “We hope he’ll take it because a shutdown hurts too many innocent people.”