Demanding that Democrats accept his call for $5 billion in funding for a wall along the border with Mexico, President Donald Trump sparred with top Democrats in Congress in an extraordinary scene played out before television cameras in the Oval Office on Tuesday, as the President said he would be happy to see a partial government funding lapse later this month unless gets his way on money for to build a wall along the border with Mexico.
“I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck,” the President said in what quickly escalated into a bitter back and forth between the President, Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
“If we don’t have border security, we’ll shut down the government,” the President made clear at several points in the photo op. “I’m going to shut it down for border security,” the President said.
“But we believe you shouldn’t shut it down,” Schumer answered, as Vice President Mike Pence sat quietly observing the bickering that unfolded in front of him.
Several times, Pelosi tried to turn the discussion away from the differences between the two parties, urging all sides to debate in private.
But that didn’t work, as the President jabbed at the likely next Speaker of the House.
“It’s not easy for her to talk right now,” Mr. Trump said, apparently alluding to Pelosi’s struggles to nail down the final votes from fellow Democrats to make her Speaker when the 116th Congress convenes in January.
As the back and forth continued, the President referred to the election results in November, pointing out that the GOP would be back in January with a larger majority in the Senate – even though Republicans lost control of the House.
“Nancy, we gained in the Senate,” the President said at one point, interrupting Pelosi multiple times. “Excuse me, did we win the Senate?” as Mr. Trump said, “Nancy, Nancy, Nancy.”
Here is the full photo op:
One thing left unsaid by the President is that it’s not clear if GOP leaders have enough votes in the House to approve the $5 billion in wall funding.
Five of the 12 funding bills for the federal government have already been approved – so any funding lapse on December 21 would impact some – but not all – of the federal government.
The military, Congress, the VA, military construction, energy and water programs, health, education and labor agencies have all been funded – but many like NASA, the Department of Justice, Homeland Security, Interior and others have not.