President Trump has invited congressional leaders from both parties to the White House for a Wednesday “briefing on border security,” according to people familiar with the matter.
The meeting between Democratic and Republican brass will be the first since Trump’s heated Oval Office parley with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), which ended with the President boasting he’d be proud to shutter the government if he didn’t get taxpayer cash for a wall along the Mexican border.
Trump, a self-proclaimed dealmaker, has not met with the Dems since the government shutdown began 11 days ago — and it doesn’t seem like he’s ready to offer any olive branches across the aisle.
“Appears to be more of a White House stunt than serious attempt to have a discussion,” a congressional aide told the Daily News of the sitdown, scheduled for a day before the Democrats take control of the House.
The eight top members of both chambers — including Pelosi, Schumer and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — have been invited to the White House rendezvous, which was described as “a Department of Homeland Security briefing,” another source said.
It was not immediately clear whether all those invited would attend and who else will be there.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment and neither did the Homeland Security Department.
On Monday, Democrats released their plan to put forth a pair of bills to fund shuttered government agencies and put the 800,000 federal employees working without pay or not working at all back on schedule.
The bills do not provide funds for the border barrier that Trump used to promise that Mexico would pay for.
“The Democrats, much as I suspected, have allocated no money for a new Wall. So imaginative! The problem is, without a Wall there can be no real Border Security,” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning.
He seemed to relent a little bit later in the day.
“Border Security and the Wall ‘thing’ and Shutdown is not where Nancy Pelosi wanted to start her tenure as Speaker! Let’s make a deal?” he tweeted.
McConnell is about to find himself stuck between a petulant President unwilling to sign any spending bills without border wall funding and an invigorated Democratic House majority ready to get to work.
The majority leader has said since the shutdown began that the Senate won’t pass any legislation without the support of the President, leaving Washington locked in a stalemate as hundreds of thousands of federal employees go without paychecks.
A spokesman for McConnell said Tuesday that the GOP leader stands by his vow to abandon any bill not backed by Trump.
“It’s simple: The Senate is not going to send something to the President that he won’t sign,” said McConnell representative Donald Stewart.
But experts say it’s not so simple.
If McConnell refuses to bring the bill to the floor for a vote, he inherits ownership of the shutdown. If he allows the vote, he tosses the political hot potato into the President’s lap.
“This will be happening at the shutdown witching hour, when the lack of paychecks for federal employees will be hitting the point where there is real economic hardship for them, their families and the businesses that rely on them,” said Stan Collender, the founder of thebudgetguy.blog. “Time will be of the essence.”
“It will also be happening as financial markets will be looking for reasons to stand down from their recent volatility and a shutdown deal (or no deal) will provide one of those,” he added.
The Democratic bills would fund the Homeland Security Department through Feb. 8 at existing spending levels, kicking the controversy surrounding the partition down the road for a month.
It would also fund the other parts of the government currently closed through the end of the current fiscal year.
The GOP-controlled Senate previously approved a similar stopgap bill to fund all of the remaining bills, including the Homeland Security Department, through Feb. 8. One week before Congress ended its 2018 session, McConnell led the Senate in passing the short-term spending bill he believed Trump would sign.
Schumer and Pelosi addressed McConnell’s role directly in a statement released Monday.
“If Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans refuse to support the first bill, then they are complicit with President Trump in continuing the Trump shutdown and in holding the health and safety of the American people and workers’ paychecks hostage over the wall,” the two Democrats said.
“It would be the height of irresponsibility and political cynicism for Senate Republicans to now reject the same legislation they have already supported,” they added, referencing the bill passed by the Senate in December. ___
This article is written by Denis Slattery and Chris Sommerfeldt from New York Daily News and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.