(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump stormed out of a White House meeting with congressional leaders Wednesday as talks to end a nearly three-week government shutdown collapsed over his continued insistence on border wall funding.
Trump said in a tweet the meeting was a “waste of time,” blaming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for being unwilling to negotiate.
“The president stomped out of the meeting,” Pelosi said. “It was a petulant president of the United States.” She called Trump’s approach to the talks “pathetic.”
The acrimonious breakdown in talks underscored how entrenched the two sides have become. Trump believes building the wall — a key campaign promise — is crucial for his 2020 re-election bid and has shown no sign of backing down. The Democrats, on the other hand, have said they won’t negotiate until the president agrees to re-open government, now its 19th day of a partial shutdown.
Tensions over the shutdown are increasing as its impact is more widely felt. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the shutdown would prevent it from doing some routine food safety inspections, airports are girding for disruptions as screeners call in sick in growing numbers and federal contractors face more than $200 million a day in lost or delayed revenue. About 800,000 federal workers will miss their paychecks on Friday.
“Just left a meeting with Chuck and Nancy, a total waste of time,” Trump tweeted after the meeting. “I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier? Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye, nothing else works!”
The meeting in the White House Situation Room lasted no more than 20 minutes, both sides said.
The No. 2 Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, said Trump told congressional leaders in the middle of the meeting, “‘I don’t know why I’m doing this. I didn’t want to do this meeting. They told me I had to do this meeting.’”
“It was pretty clear his heart was not in it,” Durbin added. “I think he’s getting impatient.”
The spectacle at the White House came a day after the president made his first prime-time Oval Office address to pitch the nation his case for a border wall. He used the setting — traditionally reserved for times of war or calls for national unity — to rattle off familiar statistics, renew complaints about Democratic criticism of his plan for a wall and reprise anecdotes of brutal crimes committed by people he said were in the country illegally.
The breakdown raised the possibility that Trump could take the extraordinary measure of declaring a national emergency and bypass Congress to fund construction of the wall. Speaking earlier Wednesday, Trump said that he may do it “if I can’t make a deal.”
–With assistance from Justin Sink, Jennifer Epstein, Sahil Kapur, Anna Edgerton, Margaret Talev and Erik Wasson.
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