Democratic Leaders Pull Out Of Government Funding Meeting After Trump Tweet

Nov 28, 2017
Originally published on November 29, 2017 6:55 am
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

President Trump was supposed to sit down with a bipartisan group of congressional leaders this afternoon to talk about some unfinished business, like funding the government by the December 8 deadline. But Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, were no-shows. The top Democrats in the House and Senate boycotted the meeting after Trump tweeted this morning he didn't expect to reach a bipartisan deal. So this afternoon, the president found himself sitting between two empty chairs.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They've been all talk and they've been no action. And now it's even worse. Now it's not even talk.

MCEVERS: To talk about this we have NPR's Scott Horsley from the White House. Hello there.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Hi.

MCEVERS: So just a few months ago the president had a pretty chummy meeting with Schumer and Pelosi, or Chuck and Nancy, as he likes to call them. How did things fall apart today?

HORSLEY: Yeah, there was no first name banter this afternoon. In fact, the White House went out of its way to highlight the Democrats' absence with those two empty chairs flanking the president. But even as they stood up Trump, Democrats were insisting they're not the ones who picked this fight. Schumer pointed out that that tweet Trump sent this morning in which the president seemed to be trying to distance himself from the Democrats, Trump tweeted that Pelosi and Schumer favor unchecked illegal immigration and a tax increase. Schumer called that blatantly inaccurate and suggested that Trump is wasting time.

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CHUCK SCHUMER: With his tweet this morning, President Trump made sure that today's meeting is nothing but a photo op. These issues are far too serious for these kinds of games. Mr. President, it's time to stop tweeting and start leading.

HORSLEY: And Pelosi herself tweeted that Trump now knows his verbal abuse will not be tolerated.

MCEVERS: Republican leaders in Congress did meet with the president this afternoon. How are they reacting to all this?

HORSLEY: House Speaker Paul Ryan said it was regrettable that Democrats were not there for the conversation, and the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, agreed. McConnell suggested this was a very unusual move by Schumer and Pelosi.

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MITCH MCCONNELL: I never refused to go to a meeting that President Obama called, a bipartisan meeting. It never occurred to me that I could just say to President Obama, I'm not showing up. That strikes me as a lack of seriousness about the matter before us, which is the funding of the federal government of the United States for the rest of this fiscal year.

MCEVERS: Funding the government is obviously a major part of the to-do list for Congress. What else do lawmakers have on their plate right now?

HORSLEY: Well, Trump wants to see an increase in military spending. He suggested that's especially important now that North Korea has test fired another long-range ballistic missile. Democrats want funding for a children's health insurance program that has lapsed. They're also seeking new protection for immigrants living in the U.S. illegally who came here as children. So there's a lot for lawmakers to do with just three and a half weeks till Christmas. And as you pointed out, the most immediate deadline staring at lawmakers is the - next Friday, when the government's spending authority runs out.

MCEVERS: Republicans did make some progress today in their effort to pass a tax cut. How's that going?

HORSLEY: The tax bill in the Senate made it through the Budget Committee, which is a step on a path towards a floor vote. There was some question about how that committee vote would go, so count that as a win for Republicans. McConnell, however, acknowledged there is still a struggle to get the 50 GOP votes he needs to advance this bill. There are a lot of moving parts, some of them moving in opposition to one another. The Senate Republican leader likened this to solving a Rubik's Cube.

MCEVERS: Well, we'll see if that happens. NPR's Scott Horsley at the White House. Thank you very much.

HORSLEY: Good to be with you, Kelly. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.