Democrats Say Trump Is Using U.S. Workers as Leverage for Wall Money

(Bloomberg) -- The top two Democrats in Congress accused President Donald Trump of harming U.S. government employees and withholding critical services to force Congress to fund his proposed border wall.

The comments from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer were delivered Tuesday night after Trump gave a prime-time address from the Oval Office in which he warned of crime and drugs coming across the U.S.-Mexico border.

Pelosi of California said Trump is rejecting House-passed legislation reopening shuttered government agencies to fulfill his campaign promise to build a wall. He is doing that, she said, “over his obsession with forcing American taxpayers to waste billions of dollars on an expensive and ineffective wall -- a wall he always promised Mexico would pay for.”

“We don’t govern by temper tantrum,” Schumer of New York said moments later. “No president should pound the table and demand he gets his way or else the government shuts down, hurting millions of Americans who are treated as leverage.”

Trump is demanding $5.7 billion for the wall, an idea Democrats reject as costly and ineffective in protecting U.S. security. The shutdown, which began Dec. 22, affects nine of 15 departments, representing about a quarter of the $1.24 trillion in government discretionary spending for fiscal year 2019. About 800,000 employees are either furloughed or working without pay.

On Wednesday, Trump will meet with congressional leaders from both parties at the White House, and he’ll attend a luncheon meeting of Senate Republicans in the Capitol. Trump also will travel to the U.S.-Mexico border on Thursday, a trip that hints at protracted negotiations over his key campaign promise.

The House has passed legislation to reopen the government while negotiations over a border wall continue. But Trump opposes it, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell -- who had publicly cautioned the president against a shutdown strategy -- says he won’t take up any measure that Trump won’t sign.

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