President Trump held a contentious meeting with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) over border wall funding today, emphasizing that he would shut down the government if the wall is not funded. The president, who was flanked by Vice President Pence and the top Democrats in the Oval Office, also told reporters that a border wall is necessary on certain parts of the U.S.-Mexico border, but not all parts.
The government is funded until Dec. 21, with all appropriations bills settled except for homeland security. The impasse is over border wall funding: $5 billion is included in the House bill, while the Senate version includes $1.6 billion. Congress has not yet approved any funding for concrete walls on the border, but has provided funding for border fence repairs and enhancements.
“We need a border wall, not in all parts, but in certain parts of the 2,000- mile border,” Trump said. “I am proud to shut down the government over border security… If we don’t get what we want one way or the other, through you or the military, I will shut down the government.”
In an extraordinary exchange, Pelosi maintained the government must remain open, and that there should not be an open debate on the subject in front of the press.
“Let’s call a halt to this. We’ve come in here… in good faith to negotiate with you about how we can keep the government open,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi said that Trump and congressional Republicans should attempt to pass border wall funding legislation while Republicans still have control of the Senate and the House of Representatives, a strategy which Trump said would not work since he needs the support of 10 Democratic senators to pass. Pelosi fired back that Trump doesn’t have the votes in the House.
“People are pouring into our country, including terrorists,” the president said at one point. “We caught 10 terrorists over a short period of time.”
Asked later for specifics, DHS referred to their average of intercepting 10 people on watch lists on average each day through all air, sea and land routes of entry.
“We may not have an agreement today, we probably won’t,” Trump said.
Schumer said that the president has called for a government shutdown 20 times over wall funding, and that the continuing resolution to keep the government funded provides “very good” border security.
“We want to come to an agreement,” Schumer said. “If we can’t come to an agreement, we have solutions that will pass the House and Senate right now and will not shut down the government, and that’s what we’re urging you to do. Not threaten to shut down the government… because you can’t get your way.”
Trump listed statistics on border enforcement since the erection and renovation of fencing in California, Texas and Arizona.
“If you look at San Diego, illegal traffic dropped 92 percent since the wall was up; El Paso, illegal traffic dropped 72 percent and then 95 percent once the wall was up; in Tuscon, Ariz., illegal traffic dropped 92 percent; Yuma, it dropped illegal traffic 92-95 percent,” Trump said.
Schumer said that Trump and the lawmakers should debate in private.
The president said all in attendance agreed that the country needs border security.
“We do,” Schumer said.
Trump responded: “See? We get along.”