Top Democrats pull out of Trump meeting after his Twitter attack

Published 7:46 am Wednesday, November 29, 2017

WASHINGTON — Congress’ top Democrats abruptly pulled out of a planned meeting with President Donald Trump on Tuesday after he declared he didn’t “see a deal” ahead with them on taxes and federal spending, casting doubt on prospects for averting a government shutdown at the end of next week.

On Twitter just hours before the scheduled meeting at the White House, Trump also accused Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California of being soft on crime, taxes and illegal immigration.

Schumer and Pelosi rebuffed Trump’s invitation and asked instead for immediate talks at the Capitol with top Republican leaders in Congress.

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“Given that the president doesn’t see a deal between Democrats and the White House, we believe the best path forward is to continue negotiating with our Republican counterparts in Congress instead,” Schumer and Pelosi said in a statement. “Rather than going to the White House for a show meeting that won’t result in an agreement, we’ve asked Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan to meet this afternoon.”

That invitation was swiftly rejected by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, Trump on Tuesday made his third visit to the Capitol in little more than a month, trying to make the sale to Senate Republicans on his signature tax bill. In a boost for the measure, the Senate Budget Committee advanced the bill to the full Senate on a 12-11 vote.

Trump met at the White House with Ryan and McConnell, where he was upbeat about the prospects for the tax bill.

“We’re in very good position,” he said.

The president and Republican leaders criticized the absent Democrats, with Trump vowing to “absolutely blame the Democrats” if there’s a government shutdown, even though Republicans control the White House and Congress.

On a shutdown, Trump said, “If it happens it’s going to be over illegals pouring into the country, crime pouring into the country, no border wall, which everyone wants.”

Two empty chairs were on either side of the president, with the names of Schumer and Pelosi.

Congress faces a Dec. 8 deadline to pass stopgap legislation to keep the government open and faces a slew of other unfinished legislation, including hurricane aid and funding for children’s health.

It was hoped the White House meeting might lay a foundation to keep
the government running and set a path for a year-end spending package to give both the Pentagon and domestic agencies relief from a budget freeze. A host of delicate issues, including treatment of immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children, were on the table.

But in his early morning Twitter attack, Trump upended the negotiations and signaled that he’ll adopt a hard line.

“Meeting with ‘Chuck and Nancy’ today about keeping government open and working. Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked, are weak on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes. I don’t see a deal!” Trump tweeted.

Now, the immediate question is whether negotiations can get back on track. And if not, what will Republicans do to seek to avert a shutdown?

The pending tax bill can advance without fear of a Democratic filibuster in the Senate, but Trump and congressional Republicans need Democratic help to advance this year’s long-delayed round of spending bills. It’s not just the threat of a Democratic filibuster in the Senate but the affirmative need for Democratic votes in both House and Senate to make up for GOP defections on the right.

A temporary spending bill expires Dec. 8 and
another is needed to prevent a government shutdown.