Shutdown enters 3rd week as sides talk without resolving border security impasse
As the partial government shutdown moves into its third week with no end in sight, a working group called for by President Trump met at the White House Saturday as an effort to bridge the dispute over funding for a wall on the southern border.
Trump announced Friday that the working group -- including adviser Jared Kushner, Vice President Mike Pence and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen -- would meet over the weekend with Democratic staff as part of an effort to end the stalemate. A House GOP leadership aide said that the meeting also included House and Senate Republican leadership chiefs and policy directors, as well as senior Democratic policy staff.
The government partially shut down in December after leaders were unable to agree on a funding bill to keep the government open -- particularly over Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion in funding for his campaign promise of a wall on the southern border. Democrats have rejected a request and said they would only agree on a fraction of that sum, allocated for border security.
The White House said that Nielsen has provided a “full briefing on the crisis at the southern border” and said the conversation with Democrats was “productive.”
“There was no in depth conversation about dollar figure, but the priorities for security. VP reiterated President’s position that we need funding for the border wall,” the White House said. “Democrats requested further details in writing on needs of DHS. We will provide this tonight/tomorrow.”
“It was productive and beneficial to have Secretary Nielsen finally be able to outline the crisis at the border in detail without interruption, given her prior efforts were cut off by Democrat leaders,” the House leadership aide said. “The group agreed to meet again tomorrow.”
Still, a Democratic source familiar with the meeting said that Pence made it clear that the White House would not move off the $5.7 billion figure for the promised wall. The source said that Democratic staff in the room said the White House must support reopening the government immediately, and that it would grow increasingly difficult to start formal negotiations with the government closed.
Administration officials are said to have refused.
On Friday, both sides doubled down in their respective positions, with President Trump telling reporters in the Rose Garden that he could declare a “national emergency” to bypass Congress on the wall issue.
"We can call a national emergency [to build a border wall] because of the security of our country,” Trump told reporters in the Rose Garden, during a lengthy and impromptu press conference.
“I may do it,” he said, before adding, “If we can do it through a negotiated process, we’re giving it a shot.”
Despite Trump saying conversations had "come a long way," Democrats were less upbeat. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer exited saying Trump told them "he’d keep the government closed for a very long period of time, months or even years.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Democrats' view is that they cannot resolve the funding dispute until the government fully opens. She said there had been progress only in the sense of a "better understanding" of each other.
On Saturday said he wanted to stop the shutdown “as soon as we are in agreement on Strong Border Security!”
“I am in the White House ready to go, where are the Dems?
Fox News’ Jennifer Bowman and Chad Pergram contributed to this report.