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Dec. 11, 2018 / 5:40 PM GMT
By Jonathan Allen
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and Democrats Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi bickered at length on Tuesday in an explosive White House meeting over the president’s promised border wall and threat to shut down the government if Congress doesn’t fund it.
“If we don’t get what we want one way or the other…I will shut down the government,” Trump said during a highly unusual fight that played out in front of the press before the official meeting began. “I am proud to shut down the government for border security. … I will take the mantle of shutting it down.”
If Trump and Congress can’t agree to a funding bill by December 21, large parts of the federal government will run out of operating authority. The Defense Department, however, is funded through the end of next September.
Trump said it was unlikely that he would strike a deal Tuesday with House Minority Leader Pelosi, D-Calif., who is expected to become House Speaker next month, and Senate Minority Leader Schumer, D-N.Y.
“We may not have an agreement today,” he said. “We probably won’t.”
The House Freedom Caucus, a group of Trump’s Republican allies in Congress, demanded Monday night that $5 billion be included for the wall in any spending bill, while the Democratic leaders have said they can accept $1.6 billion.
Pelosi and Schumer fought back against Trump, noting that his party still controls both the House and Senate until January.
Before Trump took ownership of a possible shutdown, Pelosi took an early dig at him in her opening remarks.
“I think the American people that we must keep the government open … and that we cannot have a Trump shutdown,” she said.
“A what?” he snapped at her.
“You have the White House, you have the Senate, you have the House of Representatives,” she said.
But, she noted, not all Republicans are on board with his plans to build a physical barrier.
“There are no votes in the House, a majority of votes, for a wall,” Pelosi said.
“If I needed the votes for the wall in the House, I would have them in one session,” Trump countered. “It would be done.”
But for two years, he has been unable to muster those votes for his core campaign promise during the 2016 election — a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border that Trump vowed Mexico would pay for.
Vice President Mike Pence watched Tuesday’s spectacle unfold in silence as Trump and the Democrats also fought over the results of last month’s midterm elections and their meaning.
Outgoing White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and presidential advisers Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller were also in the room for the meeting.
Pelosi urged the president to stop bickering in front of the media.
“This is spiraling downward,” she said.
The private portion of the discussion was brief, as Pelosi and Schumer emerged quickly to talk to reporters outside the White House.
Afterward, Schumer said Trump threw a “temper tantrum.”