WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer met Friday afternoon in an eleventh-hour effort to avert a government shutdown, with a bitterly divided Washington locked in partisan stare-down over politically fraught legislation to protect about 700,000 younger immigrants from being deported.
Republicans and Democrats in Congress and the White House traded blame for the possible shutdown just hours before the midnight deadline. And Trump phoned the New York lawmaker to invite him to the White House to try to reach some sort of accord.
“We made some progress, but we still have a good number of disagreements,” Schumer told reporters upon returning to Capitol Hill.
As news of the Schumer meeting spread, the White House sought to reassure Republican congressional leaders that Trump would not make any major policy concessions, said a person familiar with the conversations but not authorized to be quoted by name.
Senate GOP leader John Cornyn of Texas said Trump told Schumer to work things out with McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan. “The ball is in Sen. Schumer’s court,” Cornyn said.
Democrats in the Senate have served notice they will filibuster a four-week, government-wide funding bill that cleared the House Thursday evening. That could expose them to charges that they are responsible for a shutdown, but they point the finger at Republicans instead.
“They’re in charge,” Schumer said Friday as he entered his Capitol office. “They’re not talking to us. They’re totally paralyzed and inept. There’s no one to negotiate with.”
Republicans controlling the narrowly split chamber argue that it’s the Democrats who are holding the government hostage over demands to protect “dreamer” immigrants brought to the country as children and now here illegally.
And the White House piled on, trying to paint the impending action as the “Schumer shutdown.” Still, officials said the president has been working the phones trying to avert one. The White House said Trump would not leave for a planned weekend trip to Florida if there was no agreement. The president had been set to leave Friday afternoon to attend a fundraiser at his Palm Beach estate marking the one-year anniversary of his inauguration.
The impact of the potential shutdown on the planned trip by Trump and much of his Cabinet to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, next week was still undetermined.
Trump entered the fray early Friday morning, mentioning the House-approved bill on Twitter, adding: “Democrats are needed if it is to pass in the Senate — but they want illegal immigration and weak borders. Shutdown coming? We need more Republican victories in 2018!”
Trump has given Congress until March 5 to save the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program protecting young immigrants, so “there is absolutely no reason to tie those things together right now,” Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said at the White House.
itch McConnell, R-Ky., said he hoped to vote on the House-passed bil