Trump threatens government shutdown over border wall
US president clashes with Democrat leaders as he demands $5bn promised barrier with Mexico
US president Donald Trump threatened on Wednesday to shut down the federal government if he does not secure funding for the Mexican border wall in an acrimonious meeting with Democrats in the Oval Office.
Mr Trump repeatedly clashed with incoming House majority leader Nancy Pelosi and senate minority leader Chuck Schumer in a highly-fraught encounter in the White House played out in front of the media.
The top Democrats in the House and senate were invited to the White House by Mr Trump to discuss a number of spending Bills ahead of a possible government shutdown on December 21st. But the meeting descended into acrimony as the three argued about Mr Trump’s request for $5 billion (€4.4bn) to build his proposed wall along the Mexican border.
“The wall will get built,” Mr Trump said, repeatedly, claiming that Democrats were not supporting the relevant Bill in the Senate.
As Mr Schumer chided him about previous threats to shut down the government, Mr Trump declared: “If we don’t get what we want . . . I will shut down the government. I am proud to shut down the government over border security . . . people who have lots of problems are pouring into our country.”
Ms Pelosi and Mr Schumer were quick to dub the possible shutdown the “Trump shutdown”.
“The Trump shutdown is a luxury the American people cannot afford,” said Ms Pelosi.
She asked Mr Trump to keep the negotiations private, but the testy exchange in the Oval Office went on for about 15 minutes. Ms Pelosi told the president he did not have enough votes among Republicans in the House to back his border plan, a claim Mr Trump repeatedly rejected.
Speaking outside the West Wing after the meeting concluded, Mr Schumer said: “The president made clear that he wants a shutdown. His position, if he sticks to his position for a $5 billion wall, he will get no wall and he will get a shutdown. The bottom line is very, very simple. We want border security. We offered him border security, but Americans know . . . the wall is not the way to border security.”
He said he had offered Mr Trump two options during the meeting: a one-year extension of the disputed Bill related to immigration, or a one-year extension of all seven spending Bills. Neither option was supported by the president, he said.
The row over the border wall is likely to overshadow the remainder of the congressional session. Republicans are seeking to push through legislation before the current term ends and Democrats takes control of the House of Representatives in January.
While Republicans are asking for $5 billion for border security, Democrats are offering $1.3 billion. Outgoing House speaker Paul Ryan said Republicans in congress backed the president’s request for $5 billion.
Mr Trump said the number of illegal crossings in San Diego, El Paso and Tucson had fallen because of tougher border security. He also thanked the military for their work at the border, following his decision to dispatch troops to the region.
“They have been really, really spectacular,” he said.