The latest attempt to end the US government shutdown lasted less than 30 minutes, as Donald Trump walked out of a meeting at the White House after Democrats refused to release funds for his promised wall on the US-Mexico border.
Democrats and Republicans traded blame outside the White House in the wake of the meeting, the acrimony a clear sign that the two sides are no closer to a deal after 19 days of shutdown. Mr Trump tweeted the meeting was a “total waste of time”.
Chuck Schumer, the leading Democrat in the Senate, accused Mr Trump of a “temper tantrum”, claiming the president “slammed the table” and left the room after House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi said “no” to specific wall funding.
“He asked [House] speaker [Nancy] Pelosi, ‘Will you agree to my wall?’ She said no. And he just got up and said, ‘Then we have nothing to discuss’, and he just walked out. Again, we saw a temper tantrum because he couldn’t get his way,”
Mr Trump said he had offered to open up the government if in 30 days the Democrats supported $5.7bn (£4.46bn) in funds for the wall and border security. He added he said “bye-bye” after being turned down.
“I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier?” Mr Trump wrote on Twitter. “Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye, nothing else works!”
Republicans sought to defend the president outside the White House, led by vice president Mike Pence.“I think the president made his position very clear today that there will be no deal without a wall,” he said.
Mr Pence said that Democrats were “unwilling to even negotiate”. He refuted that Mr Trump had had a tantrum, saying: “I don’t recall him ever raising his voice.”
House Republican whip Steve Scalise said “nobody slammed a hand on a table”, it was merely that Democrats offering no support for a border wall “is not an acceptable answer” to the problems on the border.
Mr Trump said earlier on Wednesday that he had a “right” to declare a national emergency to build a wall on the southern border if no deal with congress can be reached on his request for funds. A move that will be sure to bring legal challenges.
Democrats plan to test Republicans’ resolve on the issue by advancing a bill to immediately reopen the Treasury Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and several other agencies that have been partially shut down since 22 December.
However, the White House Office of Management and Budget said on Wednesday it would recommend Mr Trump veto any spending bills currently in congress.
“Moving these four bills without a broader agreement to address the border crisis is unacceptable,” a statement said.
“I really believe the Democrats and the Republicans are working together. I think something will happen, I hope,” he said during a bill-signing event in the Oval Office. “Otherwise we’ll go about it in a different manner,” he said, in reference to a possible national emergency declaration.
The president claimed he was open to a broader immigration deal and said the shutdown could be a “blessing in disguise”, but would force the nation to focus on the issue. “We would like to see real immigration reform in this country.”
“We can all play games, but a wall is a necessity,” the president said. “They say it’s a medieval solution, a wall. It’s true because it worked then and it works even better now.”
Democrats have offered Mr Trump $1.3bn for general border security but argue that a wall is ineffective and that the president is simply using the request for $5.7bn to energise his supporters.
The latest meeting followed a televised speech to the nation in which Mr Trump sought to defend his demand for a wall on the southern US border.
During his speech on Tuesday evening, Mr Trump said: “I am speaking to you because there is a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border
“Every day customs and border patrol agents encounter thousands of illegal immigrants trying to enter our country. We are out of space to hold them and we have no way to promptly return them back home to their country.”
Mr Trump concentrated on violence committed by illegal immigrants, talking about “American blood” being spilt. “This is a humanitarian crisis, a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul,” said the president.
Commentators immediately leapt on the president’s speech to point out several inaccuracies: the vast majority of drugs entering the US do so through border crossings, so a wall would not stop them; the greatest source of illegal immigration is people overstaying visas, not crossing the desert; the crime rate in immigrant communities in the US is typically lower than in others.
His comments were dismissed by Democrats as designed to stoke “fear and malice”.
Ms Pelosi, whose party now controls the House of Representatives, said the president’s speech was “full of misinformation”.
“The fact is – the women and children at the border are not a security threat, they are a humanitarian challenge,” she said.
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