Second White House meeting scheduled as shutdown drags toward week three

A partial government shutdown showed no signs of ending Wednesday as congressional leaders left what appeared to be an unproductive meeting with President TrumpDonald TrumpDOJ asks Supreme Court to revive Boston Marathon bomber death sentence, in break with Biden vow Biden looking to build momentum for Putin meeting DOJ tells media execs that reporters were not targets of investigations MORE.

Before and after the meeting, there was little talk of compromise as Trump and Democrats battled over his demand for border-wall funding, all but assuring the shutdown will barrel into a third week.


Trump invited congressional leaders back to the White House for another round of talks on Friday, the day after Democrats assume the House majority, according to House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyFormer Rep. Rohrabacher says he took part in Jan. 6 march to Capitol but did not storm building Greene apologizes for comparing vaccine rules to Holocaust Pelosi, leaders seek to squelch Omar controversy with rare joint statement MORE (Calif.) But it remains unclear how they will resolve the funding impasse.

House Democratic Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiNew Mexico Democrat Stansbury sworn into Haaland's old seat Greene apologizes for comparing vaccine rules to Holocaust Overnight Health Care: Biden pleads for more people to get vaccinated | Harris highlights COVID-19 vaccination safety | Novavax COVID-19 vaccine shown highly effective in trial MORE (Calif.) said she planned to move ahead with a plan to vote Thursday on a spending bill without funding for a border wall, upon formally taking control of the House from Trump’s fellow Republicans.

“We are asking the president to open up the government,” Pelosi said outside the White House following the meeting. “We are giving him a Republican path to do that. Why would he not do it?”

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerIn Congress, what goes on behind closed doors? Senate Judiciary begins investigation into DOJ lawmaker subpoenas America needs a stable Israeli government MORE (D-N.Y.) said he asked Trump directly to give him “one good reason” why he would not accept Pelosi’s offer to reopen the government while border talks continued and claimed the president could not come up with one.

“I would look foolish if I did that,” Trump responded, according to a source familiar with what happened in the room.

The shutdown began on Dec. 22 after Democrats refused to agree to Trump's demand for more than $5 billion in funding for a wall on the Mexican border, one of his biggest unfulfilled campaign promises.

Trump last month supported a funding bill without wall money, but abandoned his stance amid a barrage of criticism from pro-Trump pundits on cable news.

The White House and congressional Republicans have said the plan proposed by House Democrats for reopening the government is a non-starter.

It would fund most of the closed parts of the government through the end of the fiscal year, while only funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through Feb. 8 to buy more time to negotiate over border security.  

DHS is in charge of patrolling the border and legal ports of entry.

“I don’t think any particular progress was made today,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBipartisan infrastructure deal takes fire from left and right Jayapal to Dems: Ditch bipartisanship, go it alone on infrastructure The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sights and sounds from Biden's European trip MORE (R-Ky.), who reiterated he would not put the House Democrats’ bill on the floor for a vote because Trump will not sign it.

“We're hopeful that somehow in the coming days and weeks we'll be able to reach an agreement,” he added, suggesting the shutdown could be quite lengthy.

Ahead of the meeting, Trump said he would not hesitate to keep government agencies shuttered “as long as it takes” to secure wall funding. 

“It could be a long time, and it could be quickly,” Trump said in heated remarks that lasted 95 minutes during a Cabinet meeting. “It's too important a subject to walk away from.”

The contentious meeting showed both sides are digging in even as the shutdown entered its 12th day.

Pelosi stressed that her plan closely mirrored the spending bill that the Republican-controlled Senate passed last month before Trump reneged and demanded border wall funding.

But GOP leaders said Trump was unwilling to back down.

“The problem with what Nancy Pelosi is talking about bringing up [is it] doesn't change the status quo. It doesn't add a dime to border security,” House Republican Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseWisconsin state lawmaker compares museum mask policy to Nazi Party Overnight Health Care: Public option plan left out of Biden budget proposal | House Republicans demand congressional probe into COVID-19 origin | Half the total US population have received at least one vaccine dose House Republicans demand congressional probe into COVID-19 origin MORE (La.) told reporters in the Capitol. “If they are not playing political games, they need to put a credible offer on the table that the president can sign.”

Republican and Democratic lawmakers gathered on Wednesday afternoon in the White House Situation Room, a place typically reserved for high-level military or security briefings.


They heard from Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenLeft-leaning group to track which companies hire former top Trump aides Rosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' House Republican condemns anti-Trump celebrities during impeachment hearing MORE and other DHS officials, who painted a bleak picture of the situation at the southwest border and argued that illegal immigration poses a national security threat. 

Members described the discussion as more of an informational briefing and less of a proffer session, which apparently upset some Democrats.

McCarthy accused Schumer of interrupting Nielsen and challenging some of her arguments. Sources familiar with the meeting did not dispute the account but said Pelosi also cut off Nielsen. 

“I was a little disappointed, I would say, with some on the other side,” said McCarthy. 

But Democrats said their time would be better spent trying to end the shutdown, which House Democratic Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThis week: Democrats face fractures in spending fight Pelosi signals no further action against Omar Overnight Energy: EPA to reconsider Trump decision not to tighten soot standards | Interior proposes withdrawal of Trump rule that would allow drillers to pay less | EPA reverses Trump guidance it said weakened 'forever chemicals' regulations MORE (Md.) called a “stupid public policy” that affects 800,000 federal workers.

“I think Secretary Nielsen and perhaps others presume that we don't know what the status is on the border,” Hoyer told reporters at the Capitol. “The crisis that they want to state at the border, we don't think it exists.”

Wednesday marked the first meeting between Trump, Schumer and Pelosi since Dec. 11, when the president declared during a dramatic, televised Oval Office argument that he would be “proud to shut down the government” over border security.

Trump, however, has since tried to blame Democrats for the funding lapse.

“We are in a shutdown because Democrats refuse to fund border security,” he said Wednesday, accusing them of playing politics because they have an eye “on 2020.”

McCarthy said he watched the president “stay very calm throughout the entire discussion” while he made his case for the wall.

No matter how the shutdown impasse is resolved, the wall is likely to be a central irritant in Trump’s relationships with congressional Democrats this year.

The president believes the shutdown has put Pelosi on the defensive by making her discuss an issue that is important to his 2020 reelection race instead of her legislative priorities.

But the Speaker-to-be, who is facing pressure from the left not to deal with Trump, has little incentive to compromise on the wall.

“How many more times can we say no? Nothing for the wall,” she said in an interview set to air Thursday on NBC News’s “Today” show.

The $5 billion Trump is requesting would only cover a fraction of the funding needed to build the wall, which is estimated to cost between $25 billion and $30 billion.

Trump last year turned down an immigration deal that would have provided $25 billion for border security, including wall funding.

The president has repeatedly said that Mexico would eventually pay for the wall, but has declined to say how that would work. The Mexican government has said it will not fund the wall.

— Jordain Carney, Scott Wong and Juliegrace Brufke contributed to this report, which was updated at 6:20 p.m.