Democrats turn down White House invitation for shutdown talks

No Democrats attended a lunch on Tuesday with President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE designed to reach an agreement to end the government shutdown and fund a border wall, as the president’s attempt to force leaders back to the negotiating table fell flat.

Trump invited several moderate House Democrats to the White House in an effort to undermine Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Top Democrats say postmaster confirmed changes to mail service amid delays MORE (D-Calif.), who has refused to grant Trump his demand for $5.7 billion in wall funding. But the group turned down the invitation.

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“Today, the president offered both Democrats and Republicans the chance to meet for lunch at the White House. Unfortunately, no Democrats will attend,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement ahead of the meeting.

A group of nine House Republicans were scheduled to meet with the president, but Sanders said “it’s time for the Democrats to come to the table and make a deal.”

Two of the GOP lawmakers, Reps. Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Key 48 hours loom as negotiators push for relief deal Illinois Republican tests positive for coronavirus The Hill's Campaign Report: Even the Post Office is political now | Primary action tonight | Super PACS at war MORE (Ill.) and John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoCongress must deliver aid and empower localities to continue assisting in COVID-19 response Lawmakers zero in on Twitter following massive hack Democrat Dana Balter to face Rep. John Katko in NY House rematch MORE (N.Y.), have voted for Democratic bills to reopen government agencies.

After the meeting ended, Republicans lambasted Democrats for refusing to attend in an attempt to pin blame on them for the shutdown.

“He’s put a deal on the table,” Davis said of Trump while speaking to reporters at the White House. “The sheer fact that no Democrats [were] here to even talk with us shows the lack of willingness to compromise.”

The event was the latest sign that no end remains in sight for the partial shutdown, which on Tuesday entered its record-setting 25th day.

It also signaled that Pelosi has retained her grip over the Democratic caucus in the wall fight, despite the White House’s effort to divide the party.

At least two moderate House Democrats said they explicitly declined the White House invitation.

Reps. Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyLawmakers weigh in on role of private equity firms in economic recovery The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Coronavirus relief negotiations underway with lawmakers back in Washington The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Divided GOP to unveil COVID-19 bill MORE (D-Fla.) and Lou CorreaJose (Lou) Luis CorreaCriminalization that never should have been: Cannabis Man arrested, charged with threatening to attack Muslims in Germany Gloves come off as Democrats fight for House seat in California MORE (D-Calif.), two of the co-chairs of the Blue Dog Coalition, confirmed to The Hill they would not attend the 12:30 p.m. lunch meeting.

Murphy said she had a scheduling conflict, but both Blue Dog Democrats said they believe the Senate should take up House-passed funding bills to reopen the government and send them to the president.

“The congressman is declining the invitation,” said Correa spokesman Andrew Scibetta. “Congressman Correa welcomes the opportunity to talk with the president about border security, as soon as the government is reopened.”

In a statement, Murphy said: “I have attended meetings with the president at the White House before, but a scheduling conflict prevented me from accepting this invitation.

“However, I continue to believe the Senate should pass and the president should sign the bills reopening government that the House already passed. As a former national security specialist at the Pentagon, I look forward to having a meaningful, bipartisan discussion about the best way to secure our country.”

The three other Democrats who rejected Trump’s lunch invite were Rep. Charlie CristCharles (Charlie) Joseph CristThe feds should not spend taxpayer dollars in states that have legalized weed GOP sees groundswell of women running in House races The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden's Tampa rally hits digital snags MORE, the former Florida governor, Rep. David ScottDavid Albert ScottThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden marks 4th anniversary of Pulse nightclub shooting Georgia Rep. David Scott wins primary, avoiding runoff after final tally Georgia Rep. David Scott heads to runoff MORE (Ga.), and freshman Rep. Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerDemocrats go big on diversity with new House recruits Republicans choose Frietas to challenge Spangberger for Virginia congressional seat Over 570 women registered to run for office, topping 2018 record MORE (Va.), who upset conservative Republican Dave Brat last fall, according to White House sources.

Scott later told The Hill he never received an invitation.

Democratic Rep. Scott PetersScott H. PetersLobbying world The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The American Investment Council - Trump, Pence tested, in more ways than one House Democrats press Pelosi for automatic unemployment insurance and food stamp extensions MORE (Calif.), who was not named by the White House, also said he turned down the invitation. 

A Democratic congressional aide said the meeting appeared to be pulled together “haphazardly at the last minute,” with invitations to members received from the White House beginning in the late afternoon on Monday and continuing until late at night.

A copy of the invitation seen by The Hill provided little information about the subject of the meeting.

Pelosi has been trying to project Democratic unity in the shutdown fight but did not dissuade fellow Democrats from going to the White House.

In a private meeting Monday night, Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOn The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Overnight Health Care: Ohio governor tests positive for COVID-19 ahead of Trump's visit | US shows signs of coronavirus peak, but difficult days lie ahead | Trump: COVID-19 vaccine may be ready 'right around' Election Day Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire MORE (D-Md.) told fellow leaders they were fine with rank-and-file members meeting with Trump, according to a source in the meeting.

Pelosi joked to Hoyer: “They can see what we’ve been dealing with. And they’ll want to make a citizen’s arrest.”

Democrats believe they have the upper hand in the shutdown fight, with recent polls showing most of the country blames Trump for the impasse.

But the president has refused to back down from his position that billions in wall funding must be part of spending bills to reopen the government.

“This president isn’t taking polls,” Rep. Jodey ArringtonJodey Cook ArringtonRepublicans boot Francis Rooney from GOP Steering Committee House GOP lawmakers urge Senate to confirm Vought GOP lawmaker boasts 'overwhelming bipartisan support' for USMCA trade deal MORE (R-Texas) said after the meeting. “This president has the pulse of this country and he understands that the safety and security of the American people is his first job.”

Hoyer on Tuesday suggested Trump's attempt to sidestep Democratic leaders by inviting Blue Dogs to the meeting was an act of desperation on the part of the president.
 
“Is anybody surprised that the president’s trying to get votes wherever he can get votes?" Hoyer said during a press briefing in the Capitol. "We are totally united — totally. You will see that on the floor on these [spending] votes. We want the government open, Mr. President.”
 
Mike Lillis contributed.
 
Updated at 4:33 p.m.