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 MulvaneyGiuliani meets with fired Ukrainian prosecutor who pushed Biden, 2016 claims: report Fox's Napolitano says obstruction 'easiest' impeachment offense for Democrats The key impeachment hearings are before an appeals court, not the House Judiciary panel MORE, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump puts Kushner in charge of overseeing border wall construction: report Hillicon Valley: Google to limit political ad targeting | Senators scrutinize self-driving car safety | Trump to 'look at' Apple tariff exemption | Progressive lawmakers call for surveillance reforms | House panel advances telecom bills Minority lawmakers call out Google for hiring former Trump DHS official MORE and Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerDemocrat calls for investigation of possible 'inappropriate influence' by Trump in border wall contract Judge temporarily halts construction of a private border wall in Texas Mueller witness linked to Trump charged in scheme to illegally funnel money to Clinton campaign 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

But a Democratic source familiar with the discussion said Pence would not move off the $5.7 billion number President TrumpDonald John TrumpPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump FBI identifies Pensacola shooter as Saudi Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant Trump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax 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 SchumerOvernight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law | Michigan governor seeks to pause Medicaid work requirements | New front in fight over Medicaid block grants House, Senate Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law Why a second Trump term and a Democratic Congress could be a nightmare scenario for the GOP 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.