Negotiations between Donald Trump and the Democrats to end a partial government shutdown have collapsed after the president stormed out of a crucial meeting as the opposition leaders stuck by their refusal to allocate USD 5.7 billion for his controversial US-Mexico border wall.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer accused Trump of slamming his hand on the table before he exited the White House meeting, and they said the furious ignored their pleas to reopen the federal government as they continue to negotiate over his border wall demand.
Funding for a border wall to prevent the entry of illegal immigrants has been the main sticking point in negotiations with Democrats to reopen parts of the federal government that have been shut for 19 days.
A wall along the US-Mexico border was one of Trump’s signature campaign promises. The Democrats are refusing to allocate the money, arguing that a wall would be costly and ineffective. Mexico has rejected Trump’s demand to pay for the border wall.
The standoff triggered a partial government shutdown on December 22, shuttering nine federal departments and several smaller agencies and forcing some 800,000 workers to go on unpaid leave or work without pay. The shutdown entered its 19th day Wednesday, making it the second-longest in history after the 21-day shutdown in 1995-96.
The president’s walkout from the meeting with Pelosi and Schumer starts a new phase of political uncertainty in the US. White House officials say that the administration is increasingly frustrated with the refusal of Democrats to make a deal, US media reported.
Trump was furious that Pelosi said no when he asked the Democratic leaders if they support the move to fund the border wall within the next 30 days if he ends the partial government shutdown that has crippled many offices.
“Just left a meeting with Chuck and Nancy, a total waste of time. I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier? Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye, nothing else works (sic)!” a furious Trump tweeted.
Trump earlier said imposing a national emergency to build the wall is the last option and threatened to use it if the Democrats do not allocate USD 5.7 billion funding for his plan.
He argued that the current situation, wherein people are entering the country illegally and there is massive smuggling of drugs, poses a national security threat.
“I have the absolute right to impose national emergency if I want,” Trump said.
To a question why he did not declare an emergency during his prime-time address to the nation on Tuesday night from the Oval Office, the president said, “Because I think we might work a deal and, if we don’t, I may go that (national emergency) route.”
Talking to reporters after Trump’s walkout from the meeting, Pelosi and Schumer asserted that under no circumstances the Democrats are willing to fund a border wall.
Blaming Trump for the partial government shutdown that has badly hit the functioning of the federal government, the two leaders indicated that their party is not going to change its stand over the issue.
The Democratic party enjoys a majority in the House of Representatives.
Vice President Mike Pence said their doors are still open for the Democratic party leaders to come up with their own proposal.
However, Trump has made it clear that there will be no moving forward without funding approval for a wall. In recent days, the president has showed signs of some flexibility by proposing a steel barrier instead of a 30-foot-high concrete wall.
The meeting with Pelosi and Schumer took place in the Situation Room of the White House. Trump entered the room and shared candies with the Congressional leadership, but walked out soon after getting ‘no’ for an answer from the House Speaker.
“It’s cold out here and the temperature was not much warmer in the Situation Room,” Pelosi told reporters outside the White House after the meeting.
Schumer alleged that Trump “sort of slammed the table” as the talks fell apart.
“He couldn’t get his way and he just walked out of the meeting,” he said, adding, “We saw a temper tantrum because he couldn’t get his way.”
Alleging that the Democrats are unwilling to change their position over the issue, Vice President Pence said the Democrats want to reopen the government before negotiations can begin.
Trump is scheduled to travel to the southern border in Texas on Thursday to have a first-hand assessment of the situation.
A new opinion poll suggests just over half of Americans (51 per cent) blame President Trump for the shutdown, but that 77 per cent of Republican voters back his demand for wall funding.