DECEMBER 11, 2018
WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Trump, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer clashed Tuesday over funding for the border wall, an explosive Oval Office encounter that ended with Trump declaring he’d be proud to shut down the government to get what he wants.
The stunning public spat, during which Schumer accused the president of throwing a “temper tantrum,” ended with no resolution and appeared to increase the chances of a partial government shutdown at the end of next week, just before Christmas.
The three leaders pointed fingers, raised their voices and interrupted each other repeatedly as they fought over policy and politics, laying bare their differences for all to see.
Schumer lectured Trump that “Elections have consequences, Mr. President.”
Trump claimed that, because she is working to nail down the votes to become speaker, “Nancy’s in a situation where it’s not easy for her to talk right now.”
Pelosi retorted: “Please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats who just won a big victory.”
It was the first encounter among the three leaders in more than a year, and if it offered a taste of politics in Washington next year when Democrats control the House, the capital is in for a rough ride.
Pelosi repeatedly asked the president to take the encounter off-camera but it continued for nearly 20 rancorous minutes before Trump ejected the media.
“We came in here in good faith, and we are entering into this kind of a discussion in the public view,” Pelosi said during the meeting’s public portion.
Pelosi and Schumer both implored Trump not to shut down the government. Trump initially said he did not want a shutdown either but in the end announced he did.
“I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck,” Trump declared. “Because the people of this country don’t want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into this country. So I will take the mantel, I will be the one to shut it down. I won’t blame you for it.”
“We believe you shouldn’t shut it down,” Schumer repeated.
Trump wants $5 billion for the wall in 2019 while Democrats are offering only $1.3 billion — a gulf that showed no signs Tuesday of getting bridged.
Pelosi told Trump the House would not even be able to pass his $5 billion wall bill, but Trump insisted the House could but it would be pointless because it would not pass the Senate.
“OK then do it,” Pelosi challenged the president.
“Nancy I’d have it passed in two seconds,” Trump said.
He continued: “Nancy, I need 10 votes from Chuck,” referring to Senate math requiring 60 votes to advance spending bills, requiring participation from Democrats.
Schumer sought to interject and told Trump: “We have solutions that will pass the House and Senate right now and will not shut down the government, and that’s what we’re urging you to do. Not threaten to shut down the government because you can’t get your way.”
Trump replied: “You don’t want to shut down the government because the last time you shut it down you got killed,” referring to a brief shutdown earlier this year that Democrats provoked over immigration.
The leaders also argued about the meaning of the midterm election results. As Pelosi and Schumer pointed to Democrats’ resounding win in the House, Trump said: “Excuse me did we win the Senate? We won the Senate.”
“When the president brags that he won North Dakota and Indiana he’s in real trouble,” Schumer remarked in response.
Vice President Pence sat near Trump in an arm chair the entire time without saying anything.
The private part of the meeting apparently was not much more productive than what the public saw.
After Pelosi and Schumer exited the White House, Schumer told reporters: “If he sticks to his position for a $5 billion wall he will get no wall, and he will get a shutdown. The bottom line is very, very simple.”
Even after two turbulent years under Trump, the Oval Office throwdown had senators shaking their heads.
“I don’t think it’s something to be proud of, I think it’s something to be resolved about. I’m ready to do this. Listen, enough is enough,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.).
The $1.3 billion proposed by Democrats would extend current funding levels contained in the spending bill for the Homeland Security Department — which Democrats want to maintain at existing levels if no new deal can be reached.
If there is no agreement by the end of next week, funding will run out for the Homeland Security Department and other agencies including the Justice, Interior and Agriculture departments. Those agencies, making up about 25 percent of the federal government, are operating on a short-term spending bill Congress passed last week to move the shutdown deadline. The rest of the federal government, including the Pentagon, has already been funded through the 2019 budget year.
Any shutdown would be limited in scope, but there are hundreds of thousands of federal workers employed by the agencies at risk of shutting down, and they could be furloughed without pay in the middle of the holiday season.
Trump began the day Tuesday by posting a series of tweets threatening that if Democrats do not provide enough votes to build the wall, “the Military will build the remaining sections.” He did not elaborate on how that would be funded. Trump had long promised Mexico would pay for the wall, but it is now on U.S. taxpayers to foot the bill.
Courtesy/Source: Washington Post