President Donald Trump told a group of lawmakers he can’t accept Democrats’ offer to re-open the government as the two sides negotiate border wall funding because he “would look foolish if I did that,” according to a person familiar with the exchange.
Trump met with congressional leadership from both sides of the aisle Wednesday amid an on-going partial government shutdown.
The President and Democrats are at odds over funding for a border wall. The House is expected to hold a series of votes to open the government just hours after Democrats take control on Thursday, a Democratic aide confirmed to CNN, but Trump is unlikely to sign anything they approve at this stage.
“Our question to the President and to the Republicans is, ‘Why don’t you accept what you have already done to open up government?’ ” asked California Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the presumed new House speaker, referring to a bipartisan, Senate-passed funding measure, albeit one Trump has never publicly endorsed.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he asked Trump why the government couldn’t be reopened while the two sides work to resolve their differences.
“I asked him directly … He could not give a good answer,” Schumer said.
After Democrats explained their plan to pass measures funding the government — including the Department of Homeland Security — at least temporarily as negotiations continued, Schumer repeatedly asked Trump why he opposed that approach, the person familiar with the exchange said.
Eventually Schumer asked a third time for one reason Trump wouldn’t accept the offer, and Trump responded: “I would look foolish if I did that.”
As part of the meeting, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen sought to portray the situation at the southern border as a “crisis,” two senior administration officials said.
“Nielsen said, ‘This is not a status quo situation. We are in a crisis situation,'” one of the officials said, relaying Nielsen’s remarks, which were aimed at the Democratic leaders in attendance. “Status quo funding is not enough.”
There were no raised voices during the meeting, but it was very clear that neither side was moving, the source added.
After the meeting, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle publicly said there is no breakthrough.