US President Donald Trump met top Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday, but they failed to hammer out an agreement that would end a partial government shutdown over his demand for billions of dollars to build a border wall with Mexico. One day before Democrats take over the House of Representatives, Trump showed no signs of backing away from his insistence that Congress cough up $5.6 billion for his “beautiful” southern wall.
Trump met behind closed doors at the White House with Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat who will take over as speaker of the House, and Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, but there were no indications any progress had been made in resolving the impasse. “We asked the president to support the bills that we support that will open up government,” Schumer said. “I asked him directly, I said ‘Mr. President give me one good reason why you should continue your shutdown.’
“He could not give a good answer,” Schumer said. Republican Kevin McCarthy, who will be minority leader in the next House, said Democratic and Republican leaders of Congress would return to the White House on Friday for more talks. “This doesn’t need to go on very much longer,” McCarthy said. But Trump said he was prepared to hold out “as long as it takes” to secure the money he is seeking for the border wall. “This is national security we’re talking about,” he said at a cabinet meeting ahead of the meeting with Pelosi, Schumer and top Republicans.
“It’s too important a subject to walk away from. “I think the people of this country think I am right,” Trump said, adding that it “could be a long time” before the government reopens. Trump’s meeting with Pelosi and Schumer was his first since an acrimonious Oval Office meeting with the pair on December 11. Democrats say the border wall, one of Trump’s key campaign promises, is a distraction from more complicated immigration problems and a tool for Trump to whip up support among his conservative base.
The standoff resulted in hundreds of thousands of federal employees being furloughed over the Christmas and New Year holidays -- and for the foreseeable future until a deal is reached.