In an explosive White House meeting on Tuesday, President Donald Trump, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) sparred in front of reporters over Trump’s continued threat to shut down the government for border wall funding.
“I will be the one to shut it down,” Trump said. “I will take the mantle of shutting it down ... I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck.”
“I don’t think we should have a debate in front of the press on this,” Pelosi said after several minutes of arguing with Trump in the Oval Office.
The president has regularly threatened to shut down the government over funding for his long-promised border wall, his signature campaign issue. The current round of government funding is set to expire on Dec. 21.
Trump wants to veto any congressional spending bill if he doesn’t get $5 billion for the wall, a demand that Democrats have rejected. Pelosi and Schumer want the president to accept a set of bipartisan proposals that would allocate about $1.3 billion toward border security measures, such as fencing.
If Congress does not reach a deal, a partial government shutdown looms, which would stop funding for some government agencies. Lawmakers had already passed a temporary extension before their original Dec. 7 deadline to give themselves more negotiating time. It’s possible that they may pass another temporary extension to keep the government open until the new year.
In addition to border wall funding, Trump also ranted on Tuesday about Republican electoral victories and talked over Pelosi during the meeting.
Underscoring the theatrics of the meeting, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that “President Trump was grateful for the opportunity to let the press into the meeting.”
On Capitol Hill, several Republican and Democratic senators rejected Trump’s demand for a shutdown.
“I disagree with the president very much so on that issue. Government shutdowns are never valuable and should be avoided,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told reporters.
“Nobody wins in a government shutdown,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said.
“No one should be proud of shutting down the government,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said in response to Trump’s comments.
Some Democrats on Capitol Hill couldn’t help but spike the football after watching the nationally televised meeting at the White House.
“It’s a total disaster for Trump,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said, speculating that Trump was simply throwing red meat to his political base. “Hopefully, Republicans can change his mind.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), meanwhile, called Trump’s performance “a horror show.”
“It’s exactly the way we should not be governing,” he added.
Trump elaborated on his comments at a bill signing later Tuesday, and continued to threaten a shutdown.
“If we have to close down the country over border security, I actually like that,” he said. “Chuck’s problem is that when we last closed down, that was his idea, and honestly he got killed. So rather than us debating, I will take it. If we close down the country, I will take it.”
Igor Bobic contributed reporting.
This story has been updated with comments from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and senators.