- Nancy Pelosi: ‘A wall is an immorality’
- Trump: ‘You can call it a barrier … call it whatever you want’
As a partial US government shutdown hit the two-week mark on Friday, Donald Trump once again invited congressional leaders to meet him at the White House, amid an impasse over his demands for taxpayers’ money for a border wall, and Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives.
The president has invited leaders from both parties back to the White House just two days after a meeting on border security in the Situation Room did not resolve matters, and a day after Nancy Pelosi became speaker of the House and Democrats passed legislation to reopen the government.
The meeting is scheduled for 11.30am in Washington.
About 800,000 federal workers have been affected by the 22 December closure of about a quarter of the federal government as Trump withheld his support for new funding until he secures $5bn to build his long-promised but unachieved wall along the US-Mexico border.
Such a wall, Trump has argued, is needed to stem the flow of immigrants and drugs over the south-western border. When he ran for president in 2016, he vowed Mexico would pay for the wall, which it has refused to do.
On Thursday, Trump tried to keep the pressure on Democrats, even as they gained significant new power with their takeover of the House of Representatives at the start of a new Congress.
“Build the Wall,” the president demanded on Twitter.
But in remarks at a surprise White House press briefing, Trump appeared to give himself negotiating space when he said: “You can call it a barrier. You can call it whatever you want. But essentially, we need protection in our country.”
In a meeting at the White House in December, Trump said he would be “proud” to take responsibility for causing the government shutdown, though has since tried to blame it on Democrats.
Pelosi was adamant, however.
“We’re not doing a wall,” she said late on Thursday. “It has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with a wall is an immorality between countries. It’s an old way of thinking. It isn’t cost effective.”
Asked if she would give Trump $1 for a wall to reopen the government, Pelosi said: “One dollar? Yeah, one dollar. The fact is a wall is an immorality. It’s not who we are as a nation.”
Late on Thursday, the House passed two Democratic bills to immediately reopen government agencies for varying lengths of time, despite a White House veto threat.
The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, a Republican, will not support the legislation and has pledged not to pass anything the president will not sign.
But McConnell now faces increasing pressure from fellow Republicans.
“We should pass a continuing resolution to get the government back open. The Senate has done it last Congress, we should do it again today,” the Republican senator Cory Gardner told the Hill on Thursday. His colleague Susan Collins also called for the Senate to pass the funding bills.
Vice-President Mike Pence later suggested on Fox News that the White House could work with Democrats on so-called Dreamer immigrants who were brought to the United States unlawfully as children – an idea Trump had rejected on Wednesday. “It’s being talked about,” Pence said.