Democrats to Visit Trump Again, Searching for a Path to End the Government Shutdown

Democrats to Visit Trump Again, Searching for a Path to End the Government Shutdown

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other congressional leaders will meet with President Trump on Friday at the White House to discuss reopening the government.CreditCreditTom Brenner for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Newly empowered Democrats will head to the White House on Friday to meet with President Trump in another attempt to end a partial government shutdown, but both sides’ positions seemed to be hardening in a test of wills for divided government in Washington.

Mr. Trump has insisted that he will not sign legislation unless it includes funding for a border wall between the United States and Mexico, a proposition that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called immoral.

Democrats said they will insist that Mr. Trump consider legislation passed by the House on Thursday that would fund the government, but does not include the $ 5.6 billion that the president has demanded for the wall.

The shutdown, which enters its third week on Saturday, has left about 800,000 workers without pay, limited the functions of federal agencies and slowed the court system. There are also concerns that if the shutdown continues for several more weeks, it will harm the overall economy.

Most Republicans in Congress, including those leaders who will also be in the meeting with the president, have backed the president, though there were signs of a fraying alliance as two vulnerable senators from Democratic-leaning states, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Susan Collins of Maine, expressed misgivings over their leaders’ intransigence. Mr. Gardner called on his party to end the shutdown, even if it meant not funding the wall, and Ms. Collins said she would support measures to fund the government in already approved appropriations bills.

Sean Hannity, a Fox News commentator close to Mr. Trump, may have signaled a way out, when he suggested on his program Thursday night that the president resurrect the old Democratic notion of twinning wall funding and protecting from deportation young immigrants brought illegally to the country as children, so-called Dreamers. That compromise has been floated by Senators Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee.

Newsmax, another media outlet favored by the president, reported that Mr. Hannity explicitly said Mr. Trump was now willing to negotiate the fate of the Dreamers to secure his wall.

But Mr. Trump is also facing pressure from his base to deliver on the wall, a central promise of his presidential campaign. Mr. Graham said Wednesday in an interview on Fox News that Mr. Trump’s presidency could effectively be ended if he abandoned the wall pledge. And the president this week rejected the “Dreamers for wall” idea.

On Thursday, Mr. Trump made a dramatic appearance in the White House Briefing Room, his first as president, trying to press his case for the wall by asking border agents to outline the threats posed by illegal immigration. But he simply reiterated his position and took no questions.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, would typically be a central player in the negotiations. So far, though, he has held back, contending that it is up to Democrats to fashion a solution that the president could accept.

The House has already passed a two-bill package to reopen the government. The first measure combines six separate bills that have already garnered bipartisan support in the Republican-led Senate; they would reopen nearly all of the shuttered agencies and fund them through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.

The second is a stopgap spending measure to fund the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 8 — a date that Mr. McConnell proposed toward the end of last year in a measure that passed the Senate by voice vote, but which the president rejected, triggering the partial shutdown.

Mr. McConnell has refused to take up the House package, insisting that he will not bring anything to the floor that Mr. Trump will not sign. Democrats intend to argue in the meeting that Mr. McConnell should at the least pass the cluster of appropriations bills, while continuing to negotiate over border security. In their last meeting, Mr. Trump rejected that idea, telling the group, “I would look foolish if I did that.”

Mr. McConnell, meanwhile, is waiting for guidance from Mr. Trump. He has absented himself from the talks, insisting that it is up to Democrats to resolve the impasse. But he is beginning to face pressure from vulnerable Republicans who are worried about their re-election prospects in 2020.


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