WASHINGTON, DC (Gray News) - The partial government shutdown is no closer to ending after President Donald Trump met with Congressional leaders on Wednesday, with more meetings now scheduled for Friday.
The president said he was prepared to continue a standoff with Democrats “as long as it takes.”
The meetings were the first in which leaders from both parties came together since the shutdown began 12 days ago.
It has shuttered nine of 15 federal agencies, including the Departments of State, Justice and Homeland Security, and left around 800,000 federal employees furloughed or working without pay.
Trump has framed it as an issue of prioritizing border security, and held steadfast that he will not agree to sign a bill that would fund the government unless it contains money for his long-sought border wall. Democrats have offered only to extend existing levels of funding, at $1.3 billion for the Department of Homeland Security, to be put toward border security measures.
The president is seeking $5.6 billion for the wall. He also rejected a $2.5 billion figure floated by Vice President Mike Pence as a compromise to Democrats last week.
“The 5.6 billion is such a small number. Literally, it’s one month in Afghanistan and we’re talking about national security," Trump said Wednesday. “This isn’t just a border. This is national security. This is health and wellness. This is everything.”
Before his meetings, the president said he believed “the people of the country think I’m right” on the issue.
Democrats have prepared a plan to fund eight of the departments whose operations have stopped, while the debate over Homeland Security continues. Rep. Nancy Pelosi said a bill would be introduced on Thursday.
“We asked the president to support the bills that we support that will open up government,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, said after meeting with Trump on Wednesday. “We asked him to give us one good reason ... why you should continue your shutdown of the eight cabinet departments while we are debating our differences on Homeland Security? He could not give a good answer.”
Schumer accused the president of using the government as a “hostage" in the border wall fight.
Republicans at the meeting sided with the president, saying there is a “crisis” at the border that needs addressing. They accused Democrats of not being interested in addressing it, and of interrupting Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen during the meeting.
“I was a little disappointed with some on the other side,” said Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, the House Majority Leader. “They really didn’t want to hear it, they challenged some of the points the secretary made.”
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-KY, the Senate Majority Leader, acknowledged that he did not think “any particular progress was made today" and signaled a solution could still be weeks away.
“It was a civil discussion and we are hopeful that somehow in the coming days or weeks we will be able to reach an agreement,” McConnell said.