WASHINGTON – The two top congressional Democrats emerged from a White House meeting on Friday offering no sign of progress toward a deal with President Donald Trump to fully re-open the government, with one claiming Trump threatened to keep it shut for “months or even years” as he held out for funding for a border wall.
About 800,000 federal workers have been unpaid due to the closure of about a quarter of the federal government as Trump withholds his support for a bill which would fund the government until he secures the money for the wall that he promised during his election campaign.
“We just completed a lengthy and sometimes contentious conversation with the president,” Pelosi told reporters. “We agreed that we would continue our conversations. But we recognize on the Democratic side that we really cannot resolve this until we open up government and we made that very clear to the president.”
“We are committed to keeping our border safe…We can do that best when government is open. We’ve made that clear to the president," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said alongside top Congressional Democrats pic.twitter.com/r1EngjeRQY
— POLITICO (@politico) January 4, 2019
It was the first meeting between Trump and Democratic leaders since the party took over the House this week after gains in last November’s midterm elections.
“We told the president we needed the government open,” said Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer. “He resisted. In fact, he said he’d keep the government closed for a very long period of time, months or even years.”
Trump, who wants $5 billion in funding for the wall, has said it is needed to stem the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs over the border. When he ran for president in 2016, Trump vowed Mexico would pay for the wall, which it has refused to do.
Hundreds of thousands of federal employees have either been furloughed or are working without pay because of the shutdown.
It is showing signs of straining the country’s immigration system and has been blamed for worsening backlogs in courts and complicating hiring for employers.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey, Susan Cornwell and Lisa Lambert; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Bill Trott)