Trump Heads to Border as Shutdown Intensifies and Talks Collapse
(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump’s decision to bid “bye bye” to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and storm out of a White House meeting brought relations between the president and Democrats to a new low just as the impact of the nearly three-week government shutdown was set to intensify.
The breakdown came just two days before some 800,000 federal workers will miss their paychecks, spreading financial pain to families across the country. Far from a compromise to end the standoff, Trump heads to the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas on Thursday to rally support for building a wall, the central issue in the standoff.
Trump may bolster his base with a trip to the border but he’s unlikely to sway the Democrats he needs to secure the $5.7 billion to build the wall -- a key campaign promise. While the president has so far kept most Republican lawmakers from defecting, that is being tested as the fallout from the shutdown becomes more tangible.
Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, said Wednesday that a group of senators were meeting to see if they could come up with “constructive ideas” to end the spending impasse. She didn’t elaborate but said “we’re going to continue the conversations and see where they go.”
Senator Mike Rounds, a Republican from South Dakota, told Bloomberg Television on Thursday that an emergency declaration might be the swiftest course Trump could take to end the shutdown. Rounds said Trump left that option on the table during a meeting with senators Wednesday.
“If he were to declare that national emergency, and then assume he could move funds around for that purpose, there would be no reason to keep government shut down,” he said.
Democratic leaders, meanwhile, say they won’t negotiate until the president reopens government, a strategy backed by most Democrats, including Representative Vicente Gonzalez, whose district includes McAllen, Texas -- an area Trump will visit Thursday. Gonzalez said Trump’s message of danger at the border “doesn’t really resonate” with his constituents, who know that violence there is at a three-decade low.
“I don’t think that anything you tell him or show him would change his mind from the position he’s taken from his campaign,” he said. “But people in McAllen are pretty friendly. I think he’ll be well received. I think they’ll be honest with him. And at the end of the day, I don’t think he’ll change his mind.”
The president is expected to visit a park along the Rio Grande river where Border Patrol agents have intercepted people crossing into the country illegally, according to The Monitor, a local newspaper.
A few Democrats, though, are urging Pelosi to seek middle ground. One of them is Collin Peterson of Minnesota who said he doesn’t have a problem with Trump’s wall. “They should negotiate,” he said.
Nevertheless, the abrupt end of Wednesday’s meeting in the White House Situation Room followed by the acrimonious remarks from both sides left little hope for a breakthrough anytime soon.
Trump held firm to his $5.7 billion proposal, but asked Pelosi whether she’d support building a wall 30 days after he agreed to reopen the government, according to a person familiar with the matter, who discussed the private meeting on condition of anonymity. When she replied that she wouldn’t, Trump said “bye bye” and left the room.
The discord highlighted the prospect that Trump would try to end the impasse by invoking emergency powers in an unprecedented bid to circumvent Congress and fund construction of the border wall. Just hours before the meeting, Trump told reporters he “may go that route” if he was unable to work out a deal with Democrats.
“I have the absolute right to do national emergency if I want,” Trump said. “My threshold will be if I can’t make a deal with people that are unreasonable.”
One signal the president could be leaning toward such a decision is that White House Counsel Pat Cipollone will accompany him on the trip to Texas, Politico reported. Cipollone, who came to the White House late last year, has been part of the team evaluating the possible emergency declaration, as well as other efforts to blunt the impact of the shutdown and scour government budgets for money that could be applied toward wall construction.
But Democrats have vowed to challenge any such plan in federal court. At the same time, some Republicans on Capitol Hill and members of the Trump administration have worried it would set a dangerous precedent in future appropriations battles.
Vice President Mike Pence told reporters Wednesday that while Trump “believes he has the authority to do that,” he remained hopeful that lawmakers could strike a deal.
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