CAPITOL HILL - U.S. congressional staff members and White House officials met Saturday in Washington in an effort to end a partial government shutdown that was in its 15th day, but ended discussions a few hours later. They planned to meet again Sunday.
An impasse over President Donald Trump's demand for $5.6 billion for his proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border led to the shutdown.
Vice President Mike Pence, who met with House and Senate leaders, described the discussions in a tweet:
Productive discussion w/ Congressional leadership staff at @WhiteHouse. @SecNielsen gave a full presentation on crisis along Southern Border. We reaffirmed @POTUS’ commitment to secure the border, build the wall, keep Americans safe & reopen gov’t. Discussions continue tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/C7k9Sg8guY— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) January 5, 2019
But the talks ended with no breakthrough.
Trump tweeted shortly after Pence:
V.P. Mike Pence and team just left the White House. Briefed me on their meeting with the Schumer/Pelosi representatives. Not much headway made today. Second meeting set for tomorrow. After so many decades, must finally and permanently fix the problems on the Southern Border!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 5, 2019
?House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement released Saturday, "The senseless uncertainty and chaos of the Trump Shutdown must end, now."
Her statement said that next week, Democrats would "begin passing individual appropriations bills to reopen all government agencies, starting with the appropriations bill that covers the Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service. This action is necessary so that the American people can receive their tax refunds on schedule."
Senior White House adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen also were involved in Saturday's talks, with Nielsen briefing those in attendance on border security.
About 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed or are working without pay during the shutdown, which is now the fourth-longest stoppage, partial or full, in the past 40 years.
Late Thursday, the Democrat-controlled House passed legislation to reopen the federal government and fund the Department of Homeland Security until early February. The measure did not, however, include the money Trump has demanded for the wall.
The Senate passed an identical bill last month, while Republicans still controlled both chambers of Congress.
Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not put legislation to a vote in the Senate unless Trump supported it. He called the House plan to end the shutdown "political theater."
Trump has said he will not sign legislation unless it includes funding for the border wall, while Democrats have said they will discuss border security only once the government has reopened.
Trump, who was not part of the negotiations, spent Saturday morning tweeting about the partial shutdown and border wall:
The Democrats could solve the Shutdown problem in a very short period of time. All they have to do is approve REAL Border Security (including a Wall), something which everyone, other than drug dealers, human traffickers and criminals, want very badly! This would be so easy to do!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 5, 2019
He also tweeted, without providing evidence:
I don’t care that most of the workers not getting paid are Democrats, I want 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?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 5, 2019
?Democrats have said flat out that there will be no funding in any deal to end the shutdown for the wall.
During a news conference in the Rose Garden on Friday, after meeting with congressional leaders, Trump said he was willing to drag out negotiations "for months or even years" until he got the wall funds. He also threatened to bypass Congress and declare a national emergency in order to get the wall built.
Trump said, again without providing evidence, that the 800,000 federal workers affected by the shutdown wanted him to "keep going" for border security.
When asked Friday about how unpaid workers were expected to manage without a financial safety net, the president replied: "The safety net is going to be having a strong border because we're going to be safe."
While Trump declared Friday's meeting as "very productive," Democratic congressional leaders characterized the White House meeting differently.
Pelosi, who assumed leadership of the newly sworn in House Democratic majority Thursday, called the almost two-hour meeting "contentious." She continued her oft-repeated assertion that agreement on the wall's funding "cannot be resolved until we open up the government."
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told reporters the president threatened to keep the government closed for "a very long period of time."
Despite comments from the Democratic lawmakers that little progress was made, Trump said that "we're on the same path" to reopen the government. He touted the benefits of "a solid steel or concrete structure" along the border.
VOA's Katherine Gypson contributed to this report.