President Donald Trump on Tuesday December 11th threatened to shut down large parts of the federal government over funding for his proposed border wall, openly quarrelling with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in an extraordinary exchange that unfolded before the press in the Oval Office.
In an extraordinary Oval Office meeting televised for the public, Trump and the House and Senate Democratic leaders traded barbs over the border wall during what was supposed to be a private negotiating session to keep a large section of the government from shuttering after December 21st.
In the most definitive statement yet, Trump said he would be “proud” to preside over a partial shutdown if this was necessary to have his campaign promise fulfilled.
“We shouldn’t shut down the government over a dispute,” said Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader.
“The last time, Chuck, you shut it down,” shot back Trump, referring to Democrats’ brief shut down over immigration earlier this year. “If we don’t get what we want … I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck.”
Trump turned his fire on Pelosi, questioning her negotiating position as she battles for the speakership. Liberals say the two Democratic leaders should deny Trump anything for his wall, and Pelosi is taking on a fight while she's still trying to accrue secure 218 votes to be elected speaker.
“If we don’t have border security, we’ll shut down the government,” Trump said, taunting Pelosi. “Nancy’s in a situation where it’s not easy to talk right now.”
The California Democrat responded icily: “Please don’t characterise the strength that I bring to this meeting.”
The public battle revealed the yawning gap between the president and congressional Democrats, foreshadowing the next 10 days of dramatic back-and-forth over whether roughly a quarter of the government will lapse due to the president’s $5 billion border wall request. It seems both parties have little incentive to give in: the Democratic grassroots want no compromise with Trump, and the president sees no reason to give up.