WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump clashed with Democratic leaders in dramatic fashion Tuesday, heaping pressure on Congress to craft a compromise on federal spending or face a crippling government shutdown in 10 days, reports AFP.
Hours after the president suggested a funding deal with Democrats may be impossible, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer pulled out of a planned White House meeting with Trump that they said would be fruitless.
“Given that the president doesn’t see a deal between Democrats and the White House, we believe the best path forward is to continue negotiating with our Republican counterparts in Congress instead,” the pair said in a statement.
Trump shot back that he was not surprised the Democrats rejected his offer, saying they were “very far apart” on several issues like immigration.
“They’ve been all talk and they’ve been no action. And now it’s even worse, now it’s not even talk,” Trump declared during the meeting, which went ahead with Republican congressional leaders—an empty chair on either side of the president underscoring the absence of their Democratic counterparts.
Later, after a new North Korean missile launch, Trump said on Twitter: “it’s more important than ever to fund our gov’t & military! Dems shouldn’t hold troop funding hostage for amnesty & illegal immigration. I ran on stopping illegal immigration and won big. They can’t now threaten a shutdown to get their demands.”
The rare public rejection of White House talks ratcheted up tensions in Washington over a 2018 spending bill that must pass by a December 8 deadline, and served as a stinging rebuke to a president who often mocks his rivals on Twitter.
The spat heaps pressure on Congress to craft a compromise or face a crippling government shutdown next month.
And it muddied the waters on the same day Trump headed to Congress to urge fellow Republicans to unite behind his tax overhaul, a controversial bill that he wants on his desk by year end.
Trump lunched with Senate Republicans for an hour, answering questions from Ron Johnson and Susan Collins, who have concerns about the bill.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, addressing reporters afterwards, acknowledged the challenge in getting at least 50 of his chamber’s 52 Republicans on board, likening it to solving “a Rubik’s Cube.”
‘Chuck and Nancy’ –
Behind the tough talk, Trump needs Schumer and Pelosi to rally their party’s votes to keep government running through the next 10 months.
But the self-styled master dealmaker Trump derailed Tuesday’s plans for a bipartisan White House meeting on the challenge ahead when he hit the two top Democrats—whom he called “Chuck and Nancy”—in a morning tweet.
“Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked, are weak on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes,” he added. “I don’t see a deal!”
Schumer later said Democrats would meet with Trump “any time, anywhere, any place,” so long as he was serious about a deal.
“But there is an alternative; when the president stays out of it we seem to do much better.”
The White House expressed disappointment at the no-show, urging Democrats to “put aside their pettiness” and “grandstanding,” and saying Trump’s invitation remained open.