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Trump rips Dems a day ahead of key White House meeting

President Trump on Wednesday ripped into Democratic congressional leaders one day before a critical White House meeting, claiming the party is looking to shut down the government with its demands on immigration. 

“It could happen,” Trump told reporters at the White House when asked about the chances of a shutdown. “The Democrats are really looking at something that is very dangerous to our country. They are looking at shutting down.”

Trump took aim at threats from some Democrats to vote against a year-end spending deal unless Congress shields from deportation young immigrants in the U.S. illegally. 

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“They want to have illegal immigrants pouring into our country, bringing with them crime. Tremendous amounts of crime,” Trump said. 

“We don’t have to have that,” he said. “We want to have a great, beautiful, crime-free country. And we want people coming into our country, but we want them to come on our basis.”

The high-stakes meeting comes a week after the top Democratic leaders, Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats now attack internet rules they once embraced Schumer: Trump budget would ‘cripple’ gun background checks Schumer: Senate Republicans' silence 'deafening' on guns, Russia MORE (N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiLawmakers feel pressure on guns Former Pelosi challenger: I have no 'interest in running for leadership again' Congress punts fight over Dreamers to March MORE (Calif.), abruptly pulled out of last week’s scheduled sit-down after Trump tweeted he could see no path to an agreement with Democrats on spending and immigration. 

In a tweet on Wednesday, Pelosi shot back that Trump “is the only person talking about a government shutdown.”

The House, on Thursday, is poised to pass a clean two-week continuing resolution that would fund the government through Dec. 22. The Senate is expected to quickly follow suit before money runs out at midnight Friday.

But Congress’s decision to punt the funding fight another two weeks means lawmakers will have to contend with a host of prickly issues right before Christmas.

GOP leaders have ruled out attaching to spending legislation any immigration deal to protect recipients of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Another contentious issue likely to be discussed Thursday in the Oval Office is the GOP’s strategy later this month to fund defense and nondefense programs separately. 

House Republicans, led by defense hawks, want to extend defense spending through next September at higher funding levels. Republicans would then fund the rest of the government at current levels through January while they work out a broader deal on an omnibus spending bill.

Trump, who has had multiple phone calls with House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsHouse conservative rejects ‘any suggestion of a coup on the speakership’ Freedom Caucus chairman warns Ryan over immigration Burned by the budget, right warns Ryan on immigration MORE (R-N.C.) throughout the week, appears to be receptive to the defense-first strategy.

“The President is pleased that Sen. Schumer and Rep. Pelosi have decided to put their responsibility to the American people above partisanship and attend tomorrow’s meeting, paving the way to fund our government and support our brave service men and women who put their lives on the line every day,” said White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters.

“The administration hopes to find fiscally responsible ways to avoid a government shutdown, address the looming sequester and devastating cuts facing our military, as well as fund important domestic priorities that will encourage economic prosperity and keep Americans safe,” she said.

But it’s unclear whether Democrats would be willing to go along with the idea of the defense-continuing resolution package, teeing up another possible showdown when the next round of government funding expires on Dec. 22.

Their support would be crucial in the Senate, where at least eight Democratic or independent votes would be needed to overcome a filibuster.

Democrats have traditionally insisted that any increase in defense spending above budget caps be paired with an increase in spending on domestic programs. 

“I would not support that,” Sen. Angus KingAngus Stanley KingLawmakers are failing in duty to respond to the American people Congress fails miserably: For Asian-Americans, immigration proposals are personal attacks GOP senators float fallback plan to protect Dreamers MORE (I-Maine), who caucuses with Democrats and sits on the Armed Services Committee, said of the defense-continuing resolution package.

House Republicans could just jam the Senate with the defense-first package and dare vulnerable Democrats like Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinPavlich: The claim Trump let the mentally ill get guns is a lie Toomey to introduce bill broadening background checks for firearms Scott Walker backs West Virginia attorney general in GOP Senate primary MORE (W.Va.) and Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMcCaskill welcomes ninth grandson in a row Dem group launches M ad buy to boost vulnerable senators Senate Dems block crackdown on sanctuary cities MORE (Mo.) to vote against a bill fully funding the military, especially with the escalating nuclear threat from North Korea hanging over their heads.

“Then they can go home and explain why they can’t fund the American military when the House did,” said Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeFlorida shooting reopens CDC gun research debate House GOP pushes hard-line immigration plan as Senate deals fail Speculation swirls about Kevin McCarthy’s future MORE (R-Okla.), an Appropriations cardinal.

Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), a defense hawk and Afghanistan War veteran, said it’d be a huge political risk for his home state senator, vulnerable Democrat Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyDemocrats now attack internet rules they once embraced Dem group launches M ad buy to boost vulnerable senators Senate rejects Trump immigration plan MORE, to vote “no” on the defense-continuing resolution package.

“There is broad bipartisan support for fully funding the military as we watch the growing threats we face, especially senators like Joe Donnelly in my state who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee,” Banks told The Hill. “It’d be hard for him to vote against funding the military.”

Division among Democrats could weaken the party, but it would be an enormous risk for Republicans. They are likely to get the blame if there is a shutdown since they control both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. 

Congress will also be scrambling to tackle a host of other year-end priorities, including funding to combat the opioid crisis, more money for the hurricane recovery efforts and reauthorizing a popular children’s health program.

Some members are hoping Thursday’s White House sit-down will also produce a deal on top-line spending numbers for defense and nondefense programs — something that had been expected last week.

In the last offer, Republicans proposed a $54 billion increase to defense programs paired with a $37 billion boost to discretionary spending increase for nondefense programs, a top Democratic aide said.

Democrats responded by demanding “parity” between defense and nondefense spending, the aide said.

Democrats may be willing to accept an increase in domestic mandatory spending to make up for a discrepancy between defense and nondefense discretionary spending programs.

Alexander Bolton contributed.