Trump to Democrats: no immigration talk until U.S. government reopened
* Schumer on Trump: "like negotiating with Jell-O"
* Trump: "Democrats wanted to give me a nice present"
(Adds quotes, impact of shutdown)
By Richard Cowan and Ginger Gibson
WASHINGTON, Jan 20 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump and
Republican lawmakers took a tough stance on Saturday after the
U.S. Congress failed to fund federal agencies, saying they would
not negotiate on immigration until Democrats help end the
Funding for federal agencies ran out at midnight with no
agreement in Congress, meaning the second year of Trump's
presidency began without a fully functioning government.
Lawmakers failed to resolve an impasse over Democrats' demands
that any short-term spending legislation include protections for
young undocumented immigrants.
U.S. government workers were told to stay home or, in some
cases, work without pay until new funding is approved in the
first federal government shutdown since a 16-day funding lapse
in October 2013.
A trip by Trump and some Cabinet members to the World
Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, was in flux, White House
budget director Mick Mulvaney said, with the situation being
assessed on a day to day basis.
Parks, open-air monuments and Smithsonian museums were open
in the U.S. capital as a women's rights march took place on the
National Mall. But visitors were turned away from the Liberty
Bell in Philadelphia and the Statue of Liberty in New York
The Republican-controlled Senate and House of
Representatives held rare weekend sessions on Saturday, facing a
political crisis that could have an impact on congressional
elections in November.
Both Republicans and Democrats dug in, with each side
blaming the other. Republicans said they would refuse to
negotiate on immigration until Democrats provide the votes to
re-open the government. Democrats insisted they have been
willing to compromise but Republicans backed out of deals.
"The president will not negotiate on immigration reform
until Democrats stop playing games and reopen the government,"
said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.
Marc Short, the White House's legislative affairs director,
said Trump had been in contact with Republican leaders in
Congress during the day, but had not reached out to Democrats.
Short said the president likely would be most effective
making the case for ending the shutdown directly to the American
people, and he did not rule out Trump addressing the nation in
the coming days.
The tough message from the White House and Republicans in
Congress led to speculation that Washington could be in for a
prolonged political battle.
Speaking at the U.S. Capitol, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck
Schumer delivered a stinging portrayal of Trump as an unreliable
negotiating partner, saying the two sides came close to an
agreement several times only to have Trump back out at the
urging of anti-immigration conservatives.
"Negotiating with President Trump is like negotiating with
Jell-O," said Schumer, who met Trump at the White House on
Friday for a 90-minute meeting that had briefly raised hopes.
"It's impossible to negotiate with a constantly moving target."
The federal government had been running on three consecutive
temporary funding bills since the new fiscal year began in
Democrats had sought to secure permanent legal protections
for 700,000 young undocumented immigrants as a condition for new
government funding after their attempts to push through the
protections in stand-alone bills were rebuffed.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said a solution to
the crisis was "just inches away" but he blamed Democrats for
blocking legislation to pass the fourth stopgap funding measure.
Lawmakers held informal discussions at the Capitol on
Saturday as senators debated the shutdown on the Senate floor.
One idea floated by Republicans was to renew government
funding through Feb. 8 to end the shutdown, while working to
resolve other issues, including immigration, military and
non-military spending, disaster relief and some healthcare
Republican Senator Jeff Flake said a vote could be held
either Saturday or Sunday on such a three-week spending bill.
Republicans hoped Democrats would support it if they were
assured McConnell would allow several immigration measures to
come up for a vote. Under the strategy, whichever measure passed
the Senate could gain Trump's support and pass the House.
The partial government shutdown was triggered at midnight on
Friday when the Senate failed to agree to a House-passed bill to
fund the government through Feb. 16. The bill drew strong
opposition from Democrats and some Republicans.
Democrats and many Republicans want permanent legal status
leading to citizenship for so-called Dreamers, immigrants
brought into the country illegally when they were children.
Trump ordered the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program
to expire in March, requiring Congress to act.
The shutdown began a year to the day after Trump was sworn
in as president. He portrayed himself as the ultimate dealmaker
but his inability to cut a deal despite having a Republican
majority in both houses of Congress marked arguably the most
debilitating setback for his administration.
"This is the One Year Anniversary of my Presidency and the
Democrats wanted to give me a nice present," he said on
"Democrats are far more concerned with illegal immigrants
than they are with our great military or safety at our dangerous
southern border," he said. "They could have easily made a deal
but decided to play shutdown politics instead."
Trump said the shutdown showed the need to win more
Republican seats in 2018 congressional elections.
The immediate impact of the government shutdown was eased
somewhat by its timing, starting on a weekend when most
government employees normally do not work.
The Defense Department said its combat operations in
Afghanistan and other military activities would continue, while
federal law enforcement officers also would remain on duty.
The U.S. Trade Representative staff will continue talks on
the North American Free Trade Agreement, major cybersecurity
functions will continue, and most of the Environmental
Protection Agency will remain open, budget director Mulvaney
But without a quick deal, hundreds of thousands of
government employees will be put on temporary unpaid
"It's ironic that they get paid - meaning Congress - and the
rest of the government doesn't," said Dawn Gaither, 57, a
Washington teacher. "That's what we need to do, kick these guys
in the tail and get them to work."
(Reporting by Richard Cowan, Ginger Gibson, James Oliphant, Ian
Simpson, and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Writing by Richard
Cowan and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bill Trott and Daniel Wallis)
First Published: 2018-01-20 00:36:43
Updated 2018-01-20 23:55:55
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