WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats held more talks at the White House Friday to try to strike a deal to end the government shutdown, even as both sides dug in on their positions.
New Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi was adamant that her party opposes any federal money for Trump’s main priority: A wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“A wall is an immorality between countries,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday after Democrats passed their own plan to reopen the government. “It’s an old way of thinking. It isn’t cost effective.”
Said Pelosi: “We’re not doing a wall.”
With the partial shutdown on the cusp of its third week, Trump and his aides continue to demand more than $5 billion for a wall, calling it essential to blocking illegal immigration into the United States – and saying they will maintain the shutdown until Democrats agree.
“Until he gets it, we’ll have to stay in a shutdown,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Friday on Fox & Friends.
Trump is expected to speak following the White House meeting, as are congressional lawmakers.
Before the latest meeting in the Situation Room, Trump sent a letter to members of Congress on what the White House called “the need to secure our borders.”
Trump attached slides of border problems shown to lawmakers at a similar conference on Wednesday. “Some of those present did not want to hear the presentation at the time,” Trump said in his letter, “and so I have instead decided to make the presentation available to all Members of Congress.”
The president also included a new demand: Closing “loopholes” in federal law that delay removals on undocumented migrants and “provide a magnet for illegal entry.” He claimed: “Under these legal loopholes, if an illegal minor, or those traveling with a minor, merely set foot on United States soil, they cannot be successfully returned home.”
Democrats say these laws are designed to make sure families are detained together.
Pelosi and congressional leaders from both parties arrived at the White House in the late morning.
More: Democratic Nancy Pelosi takes gavel in House as period of divided government begins
The meeting two days ago yielded no progress.
As the newly minted House Democratic majority passed a series of spending bills to reopen the federal government, the Republican-run Senate said it would reject the measure as the White House issued a veto threat.
The Democratic legislation would fund all eight departments for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. It passed largely along party lines, with seven Republicans joining Democrats in supporting the bill.
Pelosi’s plan would also fund the Department of Homeland Security at current spending levels through Feb. 8, giving the parties time to negotiate a longer-term budget.
The House Democratic legislation includes $1.3 billion for border security, but nothing for a wall.
The spending package is part of a strategy by Democrats to put pressure on Trump and congressional Republicans as the impact of the shutdown becomes more pronounced across much of the country.
Federal workers have been furloughed or are working without pay, museums have closed, and some national parks have reported human feces, overflowing garbage, illegal off-roading and other forms of vandalism.
The furloughs of hundreds of thousands of federal employees have left many parks without most of the rangers and others who staff campgrounds and otherwise keep facilities running.
In the GOP-controlled Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., warned again that he would not call for a vote on any proposal that doesn’t have “a real chance” of passing and getting a presidential signature. The Senate previously approved a bill to fund the government through Feb. 8, but that plan died when Trump said he would not sign it.
McConnell dismissed the new Democratic bills as “not a serious attempt” to end the budget standoff.
“I would call it political theater, not productive lawmaking,” he said.