Schumer: McConnell is 'abdicating his responsibility' in shutdown talks

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump says he will meet with Schumer 'ASAP' after border visit Dem senator describes 'overcrowded quarters,' 'harsh odor' at border facilities Top Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties MORE (D-N.Y.) on Friday knocked Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony Election security to take back seat at Mueller hearing McConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch MORE (R-Ky.), urging him to dig into the partial shutdown negotiations and accusing him of "abdicating his responsibility."  

Schumer, characterizing the Senate GOP leader as an "adept negotiator," said McConnell "can't keep ducking this issue." 

"Why is he abdicating his responsibility now? Why is Leader McConnell shuffling off to the sidelines, pointing his fingers at everyone else and saying he won't be involved?" Schumer asked from the Senate floor. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Congressional leadership, including Schumer and McConnell, are heading to the White House to have a second "briefing" on the border with President TrumpDonald John TrumpChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Trump attacks 'the Squad' as 'racist group of troublemakers' MORE. Talks to reopen roughly a quarter of the government are stalemated over funding for Trump's U.S.-Mexico border wall.  

Schumer added that Trump is a "terrible negotiator" and "erratic, unreliable and sometimes irrational," suggesting that could be impacting McConnell's strategy.  

The Senate previously passed a stopgap bill to fund a quarter of the government through Feb. 8 with the expectation that Trump would sign it, but the president rejected the measure in a surprise move. 

"I understand Leader McConnell's reluctance to get involved. But in truth, they are all the more reason for him getting involved. America needs Leader McConnell to get involved to stop this shutdown," Schumer added. 

McConnell has taken a back seat in the government funding fight, saying a deal will need to be worked out between Trump and Congressional Democrats. The House passed a bill on Thursday night to fully reopen the government, but McConnell has pledged that the Senate will not take it up because the president doesn't support it. 

Republicans have defended McConnell's strategy, arguing he's not removing himself from the negotiations but recognizes the current dynamics of the shutdown fight.

"I don't think he's on the sidelines but he realizes that he's tried to work these deals and they haven't born fruit yet and the disagreement is, obviously, between the House and the Senate Democratic leadership and the president of the United States," Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyThe Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants GOP wants commitment that Trump will sign budget deal Schumer warns Mulvaney against drawing hard lines on budget deal MORE (R-Ala.), the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said on Thursday.

McConnell, asked about his stance, separately told reporters that he hadn't "been sidelined" but noted that it's up to Schumer, House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi, Mnuchin reach 'near-final agreement' on budget, debt ceiling Wendy Davis launches bid for Congress in Texas Steyer calls on Pelosi to cancel 'six-week vacation' for Congress MORE (D-Calif.) and Trump to make an agreement. 

"So, I haven't been sidelined," McConnell said. "It's just that there's no particular role for me when you have this setup."