WASHINGTON — Arguing heatedly in public with Democratic leaders, President Donald Trump threatened repeatedly on Tuesday to shut down the government if Congress doesn’t provide the money he says is needed to build a wall at the Mexican border.
In his first encounter with the newly empowered Democrats after their midterm victories in the House, Trump heckled the leaders as they said legislation to keep the government open and provide additional border security could pass both houses of Congress. Previewing what is expected to be a tense relationship in the new year, the group squabbled on national TV in the Oval Office as Trump said major wall funding was vital.
“If we don’t get what we want, one way or the other, whether it’s through you, through military, through anything you want to call, I will shut down the government,” Trump said. “I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down.”
Seeking Far More for Long-Stalled Wall
Barely a half hour passed before the Democrats had exited a private meeting with the president, issuing stern warnings.
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan acknowledged Tuesday that the GOP-led House has yet to pass legislation that includes the $5 billion in border wall funds that Trump has been requesting. The reality is he likely lacks the votes from his Republicans who will lose their majority at the end of the month.
Trump is seeking far more for his long-stalled border wall than the $1.6 billion the Senate has agreed to for border security, including physical barriers and technology along the U.S. southern border
The public Oval Office meeting between Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and the Democrats began civilly, with Trump noting progress for criminal justice legislation in the Senate. But the session quickly unraveled as he mentioned his promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Trump Squabbles With the Democrats Over Wall Funding
Said Trump with a smile: “And then we have the easy one, the wall. That will be the easiest of all, what do you think Chuck?” Schumer shot back sternly: “It’s called funding the government.”
Pelosi later said: “This has spiraled downwards.”
After Pelosi and Schumer noted Democratic success in the midterm elections, the president asked whether Republicans had won the Senate in the November election.
“When the president brags he has won North Dakota and Indiana, he’s in real trouble,” retorted Schumer with a smile.