Top White House officials and senior congressional aides left a three-hour meeting Saturday with no apparent breakthrough for ending the partial government shutdown, which has now entered its third week with no end in sight.
Expectations for the meeting at the White House — led by Vice President Pence but lacking lawmakers whose sign-off would be needed to secure a deal — were low. While assigned by President Trump to oversee the meeting, Pence did not have the president’s blessing to float new or specific numbers, as the vice president had done last month in a meeting with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), according to two Trump aides who were not authorized to speak publicly.
Pence was also expected to speak with some lawmakers by phone.
Before the meeting began Saturday morning, Trump took a combative tone in a series of Twitter messages.
“We are working hard at the Border, but we need a WALL! In 2018, 1.7 million pounds of narcotics seized, 17,000 adults arrested with criminal records, and 6000 gang members, including MS-13, apprehended. A big Human Trafficking problem,” Trump tweeted.
“Great support coming from all sides for Border Security (including Wall) on our very dangerous Southern Border. Teams negotiating this weekend! Washington Post and NBC reporting of events, including Fake sources, has been very inaccurate (to put it mildly)!”
Saturday’s White House meeting followed one the previous day between Trump and congressional leaders. After that meeting, the president held a news conference in the Rose Garden, in which he reiterated his demands for border wall funding.
A number of Republicans, including Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who is up for reelection in 2020, have said in recent days that the government should be reopened and that a shutdown is not the “right answer,” worrying GOP leaders about the depth of support for Trump’s position.
Trump spent much of Saturday on the phone with allies, talking through his positioning on the shutdown and hearing their reviews of his Rose Garden performance, according to a person close to him. Two people regularly on his call list — Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) — have encouraged Trump to take a hard line and refuse to agree to reopen the government unless wall funding is secured, the person said.
“I’ve never seen the president as resolved on any issue as he is on this,” Meadows said Saturday. “But he is open to new ideas about how to end the impasse.”
Trump told reporters Friday that he wants to reopen government but is prepared to maintain the shutdown for weeks or even years. He also told congressional leaders at the White House on Friday that he preferred the term “strike” over “shutdown,” people briefed on the meeting said.
House Democratic leaders privately described Saturday’s meeting as an attempt by the White House to hold Republicans together as the shutdown grows more politically painful, particularly for Republicans who are facing difficult reelection campaigns.