President Trump Threatens To Keep Government Closed For 'Months Or Even Years,' As Shutdown Nears Third Week
Buckle up, federal workers, President Trump is prepared to hold your livelihoods hostage for a long time.
The commander-in-chief threatened Friday to keep a large swath of the government shuttered for “months or even years” if Democrats refuse to earmark billions of taxpayer dollars for the border wall that he spent the entire 2016 campaign promising Mexico would pay for.
During a rambling appearance in the White House Rose Garden, Trump shrugged off questions about the roughly 800,000 federal employees who continue to work without pay or not work at all because of the shutdown and confirmed he “absolutely” told congressional leaders during a meeting earlier in the day that he’s ready to keep the government closed for years.
“I did say that. Absolutely I said that,” the President told reporters, as the debilitating shutdown entered its 14th day. “I don’t think it will, but I am prepared.”
The longest shutdown in American history to date lasted 21 days in 1995 and cost the government more than $2 billion.
Trump’s long-game threat came after he met privately with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other leaders from both parties for a discussion on the shutdown.
Trump claimed the tête-à-tête was “very, very productive” and “very, very good” but declined to in any way clarify what he meant by that.
The Democrats — who passed a spending package in the House on Thursday that would reopen the government while giving Congress more time to discuss disagreements on border spending — walked out of the White House with a much different outlook than Trump.
“The bottom line is very simple, we made a plea once again: open up the government and let’s continue discussions,” Schumer told reporters after the meeting, which he described as “contentious.”
The New York senator said Trump “resisted” their offer and claimed “he would keep the government closed for a very long time — months or even years.”
On Thursday, Trump said he would veto the spending bills passed by the House if they landed on his desk — even though they were modeled after a bipartisan measure that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) championed and voted for before the shutdown began.
After Trump’s veto threat, McConnell affirmed he wouldn’t put the House bills up for a Senate vote, since he doesn’t want to pass anything Trump is not committed to signing. The President, meanwhile, remains firm he won’t approve any measure that doesn’t tuck away at least $5 billion in wall cash.
If Congress won’t budge, Trump claimed Friday he may declare a “national emergency” and build the wall using funds from other parts of the federal budget — a legally dubious proposal that would all but certainly be challenged in court.
The House package currently on the table would reopen the Department of Homeland Security on current spending levels through Feb. 8 without providing any money for Trump’s wall. The other eight shuttered agencies would reopen with full fiscal year funding.
Democrats, who blast the wall as overly expensive, ineffective and immoral, say their plan releases federal workers from the hostage-like situation they’re in while lawmakers are given a month to resolve their differences on Homeland Security spending.
But the President signaled he considers his signature campaign promise more important than the thousands of furloughed federal employees.
“We won’t be opening until it’s solved,” Trump said in the Rose Garden. “The border is a much more dangerous problem.”
Asked whether he accepts ownership of the shutdown, Trump delivered a head-scratching non-sequitur.
“I don’t call it a shutdown,” the President said. “I call it doing what you have to do for the benefit and for the safety of our country.”
Trump said he is discharging his son-in-law Jared Kushner, Vice President Pence and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to continue shutdown discussions with Dems over the weekend. Another White House meeting is expected Saturday morning.
McConnell, who could put pressure on Trump to reopen the government by passing the House package, skipped the Rose Garden appearance even though he attended the preceding closed-door meeting — just like he did after a similar White House talk on Wednesday.
“He’s doing everything he can to distance himself from the President’s shutdown,” a congressional aide briefed on Friday’s meeting told the Daily News. “All he can do is to distance himself from a shutdown he knows the President owns.” ___
This article is written by Chris Sommerfeldt from New York Daily News and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.