The U.S. government runs out of funding in 10 days, but initial scheduled discussions Tuesday between President Donald Trump and Democratic congressional leaders to avert a shutdown ran into an immediate snag in politically fractious Washington.
Trump, in a Twitter comment, said he planned to meet with the top two Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, "about keeping government open and working" beyond the December 8 funding cutoff.
But the U.S. leader acknowledged he did not see a deal in the offing with Schumer and Pelosi, contending that the "Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked, are weak on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes."
Hours later, Schumer and Pelosi called off the White House meeting, saying that since Trump did not see a deal materializing, they did not "have any time to waste" by meeting with him. The Democratic leaders said it would have been "a show meeting that won’t result in an agreement."
Instead, Schumer and Pelosi said they "believe the best path forward" was to meet with the top Republican congressional leaders, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan.
"We’re going to continue to negotiate with Republican leaders who may be interested in reaching a bipartisan agreement," the Democratic leaders said.
Later, the White House said, “It’s disappointing that Senator Schumer and Leader Pelosi are refusing to come to the table and discuss urgent issues. The president’s invitation to the Democrat leaders still stands and he encourages them to put aside their pettiness, stop the political grandstanding, show up and get to work. These issues are too important."
The White House said the meeting with Ryan, McConnell and White House aides would still go on and that if the "Democrats believe the American people deserve action on these critical year-end issues as we do, they should attend.”
‘Important work to do’
Ryan also called for Schumer and Pelosi to show up at the White House.
"We have important work to do, and Democratic leaders have continually found new excuses not to meet with the administration to discuss these issues," Ryan said. "Democrats are putting government operations, particularly resources for our men and women on the battlefield, at great risk by pulling these antics. There is a meeting at the White House this afternoon, and if Democrats want to reach an agreement, they will be there."
If the political leaders cannot reach an immediate agreement on funding the government through the end of the current fiscal year that extends through September 2018, they could approve a short funding extension with the goal of completing a longer-term deal before Congress recesses for the Christmas and New Year's holidays.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers hold sharply divergent views about what ought to be included in the budget extension. Republicans generally want more defense spending, but Democrats say that should be paired with more money for domestic social programs.
Democrats also want a provision included in the spending plan that would prohibit Trump from deporting 690,000 young people who came to the country with their parents years ago as undocumented immigrants. Trump has given Congress until March to resolve the issue, but at the same time wants funding for construction of a wall along the southern U.S. border with Mexico to thwart more illegal immigration. Democrats, and some Republicans, oppose construction of the wall.
Some Democrats have said they will not vote for the government budget if the Dreamers, as the young immigrants are often called, are not protected from deportation. Republicans have opposed inclusion of the immigration provision in the budget and say the issue should be dealt with in separate legislation in early 2018.