Two weeks into the partial government shutdown, there are few signs that the standoff will be resolved anytime soon.
President Trump and congressional leaders made little progress Friday at a White House meeting. In remarks to reporters afterward, Trump described the talks as “productive” but also confirmed that he told Democrats he’d be willing to keep the government partially closed for months or even years if he does not get the money he wants to build a wall along the border with Mexico. “Absolutely I said that,” Trump told reporters. “I don’t think it will, but I am prepared.”
He added that he hopes the shutdown doesn’t go on even for days: “It could be opened really quickly.”
At the same time, Trump discussed the possibility that he could declare a national emergency and build a wall without approval from Congress. “We could call a national emergency and build it very quickly,” he said after being asked if he was considering such an option. “That’s another way to do it. But if we can do it through a negotiated process, that’s better.”
Democrats, meanwhile, said the meeting was “sometimes contentious” and pushed the president to first reopen the government and then resume talks about border security.
"How do you define progress in a meeting? When you have a better understanding of each others’ position? When you eliminate some possibilities? If that’s a judgment, then we made some progress." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters.
As expected, the Democratic-led House on Thursday passed legislation to fund most parts of the government that are now closed through September while providing money for the Department of Homeland Security through February 8, allowing negotiations to continue. But that package was described as dead on arrival in the Senate, as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell insists he won’t call for votes on legislation unless Trump indicates he’ll sign it.
The two sides will hold staff-level meetings over the weekend to continue talks, but the shutdown now appears certain to extend at least until next Tuesday. If it does so, it would become the second-longest shutdown since 1976, behind only a 21-day shutdown in the 1990s. And based on the public comments by Trump and Democratic leaders this week, it looks likely to shatter that record.