Trump threatens govt shutdown in meeting with top Democrats

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump openly fought with the top two Democratic lawmakers in the Oval Office on Tuesday about government funding, throwing into question whether a deal to avert a government shutdown was possible ahead of a deadline next week.
In a remarkable public argument, the likes of which is seldom seen before cameras, Trump brawled with US Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi about paying for a wall on the US-Mexico border that they see as ineffective and wasteful.
“If we don’t get what we want, one way or the other — whether it’s through you, through a military, through anything you want to call — I will shut down the government,” Trump said as the heated argument drew to a crescendo.
“I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck, because the people of this country don’t want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country,” he said before reporters left their ringside seats.
Vice-President Mike Pence sat beside Trump, silent and stone faced.
While Trump’s fellow Republicans control both the House and the Senate until next month, Democratic support is needed to pass any spending legislation.
If the impasse cannot be resolved by December 21, about one-quarter of the federal government immediately would be left without funding. Money for the rest of the government already has been appropriated.
Trump has asked Congress for $5 billion for border security, while Schumer and Pelosi have offered to extend funding at current levels, around $1.3 billion. That is less than the $1.6 billion a bipartisan Senate committee approved.
While the battle over border security is contentious, the money being negotiated is a small portion of a $450 billion bill to keep agencies operating through next September.
In an interview with Reuters later in the day, Trump did not rule out a compromise on the funding. “We have to see what else is entailed,” he said.
The meeting did not last long after reporters were ushered out of the Oval Office.
But the harsh words continued during a closed meeting of House Democrats.
Pelosi told reporters she had asked Trump to pray about resolving the dispute, recounting the biblical story of King Solomon asking God for wisdom.
Pelosi told reporters that later in the day she and Trump spoke by telephone, and the president said he was reviewing the offer made by Democrats during the White House meeting.
— Reuters