Administration

Democrats turn down White House invitation for shutdown talks

No Democrats attended a lunch on Tuesday with President Trump 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 Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has refused to grant Trump his demand for $5.7 billion in wall funding. But the group turned down the invitation.

{mosads}“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 Davis (Ill.) and John Katko (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 Murphy (D-Fla.) and Lou Correa (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 Crist, the former Florida governor, Rep. David Scott (Ga.), and freshman Rep. Abigail Spanberger (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 Peters (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 Hoyer (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 Arrington (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.
Tags Abigail Spanberger Charlie Crist David Scott Donald Trump Jodey Arrington John Katko Lou Correa Nancy Pelosi Rodney Davis Scott Peters Steny Hoyer Stephanie Murphy

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