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Trump leaves shutdown talks, calling them 'a total waste of time'

President Donald Trump arrives with Vice President Mike

President Donald Trump arrives with Vice President Mike Pence to attend a Senate Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday. Credit: AP / Evan Vucci

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump walked out of a meeting with congressional leaders at the White House on Wednesday without reaching a resolution to end the three-week government shutdown, declaring the meeting "a total waste of time” after Democrats continued to reject his $5.7 billion request for a southern border wall.

The failed negotiations came on the 19th day of a government shutdown — the second longest in U.S. history — as about 800,000 federal workers were expected to not receive their paychecks on Friday over the impasse.

Trump and Democrats offered differing accounts of the 3 p.m. meeting, each accusing the other of not compromising.

On Twitter, Trump said he asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer "what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier? Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye, nothing else works!"

Pelosi and Schumer, speaking to reporters after the meeting, said Trump slammed his hand on the table of the Situation Room and stormed out after Pelosi reaffirmed that Democrats would not commit to directing taxpayer dollars for a wall along the U.S. and Mexico border.  

"Again, we saw a temper tantrum because he couldn't get his way," Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.

Vice President Mike Pence, speaking to reporters after the meeting, denied Trump slammed his hand, and said Democrats were "unwilling" to compromise with Trump who would "stand firm" until the funding was provided.

A day after addressing the nation on the need for a border wall, Trump suggested he was still considering taking unilateral action to build the wall by possibly declaring a national emergency. On Thursday, Trump will travel to McAllen, Texas to once again make the case for the wall.

"I think we might work a deal, and if we don’t, I may go that route," Trump told reporters at a White House bill signing ceremony before the failed talks. "I have the absolute right to do [a] national emergency if I want."

Hours after the White House meeting, House Democrats passed a bill to reopen the Internal Revenue Service and other impacted federal agencies, as part of their effort to pressure Senate Republicans to take up a vote on reopening the government while allowing for talks on border wall funding to continue in the future.

Trump and Pence met with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, looking to shore up support for the president’s position as a growing number of moderate Republicans have called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to schedule a vote to reopen the government.

Trump emerged from the meeting declaring that his party remains behind him as a "very unified party."

He then turned to McConnell (R-Ky.), who said, “We’re all behind the president. We think that border security is extremely important to the country.”

Despite Trump's claim of unified Republican support for his position in the battle with Democrats, as many as five or six Senate Republicans are expressing concern about the government shut down, and in the House several Republicans question if their party may be going off the cliff in the standoff.

"We expect that with each passing day additional Republicans in the House, as well as, Senate Republicans, will publicly express their objection to keeping our government shut down," said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn), chair of the House Democratic caucus.

Last week, seven Republicans crossed the aisle to vote with Democrats for an appropriation bill to reopen eight of the nine unfunded federal departments.

After Trump's national Oval Office address Tuesday and visit to Senate Republicans on Wednesday, eight Republicans voted for a financial services appropriations bill that would reopen the IRS.

The House passed that bill last week as part of the broader package, but Democrats brought it up again individually — as they will four other bills this week — to drive home their talking point that Democrats want to reopen government.

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), for example, said he voted for the Democratic measure to reopen the government last Thursday, but won't this week "because I believe Democrats are making no concessions" in talks with Trump and the White House.

"These bills are just show pieces," King said.

Trump and Republicans said some Democrats in Republican-leaning districts might also be feeling the heat from their constituents as well. But no Democrat voted against the package last week or the bill on Wednesday.

At a news conference with leaders of federal employee unions to highlight the shutdown’s strain on government workers, Pelosi and Schumer said Trump did not make a persuasive case during last night’s televised Oval Office address and accused him of mischaracterizing the security issues on the border.

“We have been negotiating,” Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, but she complained, “The White House seems to move the goalposts every time they come with a proposal. . . . Pretty soon these goalposts won’t even be in the stadium.”

As a result, she said, “So what we want to say to them is if we can come to some agreement, we want it in writing so the public can see it so it doesn’t change.”

Pelosi called it a “dark time” for those thousands of airport screeners, prison guards and other federal employees, and Schumer stressed that many of them are soon going to miss their first paycheck, creating real problems for those living paycheck to paycheck and making an average of $500 to $700 a week.

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