Pence huddles with congressional staffers amid effort to end shutdown

Vice President Pence and top members of the Trump administration met with Democratic congressional staffers on Saturday to discuss a potential end to the weeks-long partial government shutdown.

Pence, White House acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTrump hits Democrats over coronavirus criticism: 'This is their new hoax' Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Dems 'frustrated' by coronavirus response after briefing | Mulvaney claims press covering outbreak to take Trump down | Pence bolsters task force On The Money: Stocks have worst week in a decade on coronavirus fears | Fed chief hints at rate cut | Trump pushes central bank for action | Kudlow advises investors to 'think about buying the dip' MORE, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenHillicon Valley: Twitter falling short on pledge to verify primary candidates | Barr vows to make surveillance reforms after watchdog report | DHS cyber chief focused on 2020 Sen. Kennedy slams acting DHS secretary for lack of coronavirus answers The 'accidental director' on the front line of the fight for election security MORE and Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — California monitoring 8,400 people for coronavirus | Pence taps career official to coordinate response | Dems insist on guardrails for funding Trump upends controversial surveillance fight Top Trump advisers discuss GOP need to act on health care at retreat with senators MORE were spotted leaving the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Saturday afternoon after the approximately two-hour meeting.

An aide to Pence said that the meeting did not include a specific discussion about the dollar amount requested by the White House for a funding bill but it instead focused on security.

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But a Democratic source familiar with the discussion said Pence would not move off the $5.7 billion number President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump endorses former White House physician Ronny Jackson for Congress Newly released emails reveal officials' panic over loss of credibility after Trump's Dorian claims Lindsey Graham thanks Trump, bemoans 'never-ending bull----' at South Carolina rally  MORE has requested for the his proposed border wall.

"Democratic staff in the room were clear that White House must support re-opening government immediately and that it will grow increasingly hard to start formal negotiations with government closed," the source said. "Administration officials refused."

Nielsen briefed congressional aides on the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border, the aide said, while Pence reiterated the president's position that funding for the border wall must be in any bill to reopen the government.

Trump tweeted after the meeting concluded that "not much headway" was made towards reaching a deal to fund the federal government, while calling on Democrats to reach an agreement to address illegal immigration and border security.

"Not much headway made today. Second meeting set for tomorrow. After so many decades, must finally and permanently fix the problems on the Southern Border!" Trump wrote.

Pence, meanwhile, wrote on Twitter that the meeting was "productive" but offered no details of what was discussed beyond what was released by his office. He noted that discussions would continue into Sunday.

A House GOP leadership aide said that the Republican leadership chiefs and policy directors from the House and Senate were on hand for the discussion, which they described as "in-depth."

"It was productive and beneficial to have Secretary Nielsen finally be able to outline the crisis at the border in detail without interruption, given her prior efforts were cut off by Democrat leaders," the aide said.
 
However, Mulvaney struck a tone similar to Trump's, telling CNN host Jake Tapper that little progress was made toward reopening the government during Saturday's meeting. Mulvaney was scheduled to appear Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."
 
"We didn't make much progress at the meeting, which was surprising to me," Mulvaney said. "I thought we had come in to talk about terms that we could agree on, places where we all agreed we should be spending more time, more attention, things we could do to improve our border security. And yet the opening line from one of the lead Democrat negotiators was that they were not there to talk about any agreement."

The shutdown, which affects roughly 25 percent of the federal government, stretched into its 15th day on Saturday as Democrats and Republicans battle over whether to provide the White House's demanded $5 billion in funding for a border wall in a bill to reopen the government.

On Friday, Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerBiden win in South Carolina could turn tide, say strategists Sanders blasts Trump for picking 'completely unqualified' Pence for coronavirus response Trump passes Pence a dangerous buck MORE (D-N.Y.) told reporters that the president had vowed to keep the government closed for as long as it took to secure funding for the wall, potentially for longer than a year.

“We told the president we needed the government open,” Schumer told reporters Friday. “He resisted. In fact, he said he’d keep the government closed for a very long period of time, months or even years.” 

In a series of early morning tweets on Saturday, President Trump knocked Democrats over the shutdown negotiations, accusing the party of opposing his wall proposal while supporting funding for foreign aid and other programs he has criticized in the past. 

"The Democrats want Billions of Dollars for Foreign Aid, but they don’t want to spend a small fraction of that number on properly securing our Border," Trump wrote Saturday morning, adding: "Figure that one out!" 

Updated: 4:05 p.m.