As the federal government remains shut down indefinitely, top officials have been meeting behind closed doors to hash out an acceptable plan by both sides, but nothing productive had materialized as of Friday.
President Donald Trump told reporters in the Rose Garden after their morning session that he had a “very, very good meeting” with top Democrats and other congressional leaders at the White House, ABC News reported. The shutdown is now heading into its third week.
Trump remained optimistic that a resolution would be reached, possibly even over the weekend as staff-level discussions continued. The biggest sticking point for Trump is for funding to be allocated for the wall he wants constructed on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Before Trump addressed the media in the Rose Garden, however, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer informed reporters gathered outside the White House that Trump told lawmakers during their 1.5-hour meeting that he would keep the government shut down “for a very long period of time, months or even years.” Schumer also said that Trump refused to heed Democratic pleas to reopen the government while discussions continued, ABC News reported.
“The bottom line is very simple. We made a plea to the president once again. Don’t hold millions of Americans, hundreds of thousands of workers hostage. Open up the government and let’s continue the discussions,” Schumer said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described the Friday meeting as “contentious.” She left the meeting visibility concerned about the outcome or lack thereof, turning on her heels with fellow Democrats as they left the White House, ABC News observed.
“How do you define progress when you have a better understanding of each other’s position? When you eliminate some possibilities?” Pelosi said. “If that’s a judgment, then yes, we made progress.”
Pelosi intended to push the president to sign a series of measures the House Democrats passed Thursday evening that would re-open the six federal agencies that were shut down, as well as extend funding to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 8 so that border security negotiations could continue.
Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, both said they would support measures that would end the partial shutdown and not provide the funding demanded by the president for his border wall.
When asked by a reporter about Schumer’s claim that Trump had no qualms about keeping the government shut down indefinitely, Trump confirmed that he made that statement, ABC News noted. Senate Majority Leader Mitchel McConnell said he would not present bills for a vote in his chamber without the president’s approval and denigrated the Democrat’s proposal.
“The package presented by the House’s new Democratic leaders yesterday can only be seen as a time-wasting act of political posturing,” McConnell stated on the Senate floor Friday morning. “It does not carry the support of the president… the president would actually veto it. And it cannot earn the support of 60 of my colleagues over here in the Senate. My friends across the aisle understand the ground rules perfectly well.”
Friday’s meeting was similar to a Situation Room briefing on border security provided Wednesday with the same eight leaders from both parties present, ABC News disclosed. Friday’s briefing was not open to the media. The House and Senate adjourned Friday morning and will not return until Tuesday to pick up where they left off.
Afterward, press secretary Sarah Sanders informed reporters that the president will not back down from his demands for more than $5 billion to build the wall.
“Look the president has the support of the American people because they want to feel safe,” Sanders said. “The number one duty that the president has and frankly that Congress shares with him is to protect the people in this country.”