Trump Fails to Crack Democratic Unity on Shutdown

Trump Fails to Crack Democratic Unity on Shutdown

Brad Mills/Reuters

Even lunch is an issue.

As the partial government shutdown stretches toward its 26th day, the White House tried to bypass Democratic leadership by inviting rank-and-file House Democrats to lunch with President Trump and nine Republicans lawmakers. The invitation was part of a long-shot effort to open some cracks in Democratic unity “and negotiate directly with centrist lawmakers and some newly elected freshmen, including those in districts where Trump is popular,” the Associated Press says.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly gave her blessing for those more junior lawmakers to accept the White House invitation — and see for themselves what it’s like to deal with Trump — but they all declined amid concerns that the event would just be a photo opportunity for the president.

“The question that I think everyone can reasonably ask is, is he inviting people to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to really try to resolve this problem or to create a photo op so he can project a false sense of bipartisanship?” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, said, according to The Washington Post.

Negotiations remain at a standstill, and each side continues to try to ramp up pressure and gain leverage. The White House reportedly has no meetings planned this week with Pelosi or Schumer.

More Posturing and Poll Numbers

On Tuesday morning, the president tweeted about a new caravan heading toward the U.S. from Honduras and claimed that “Polls are now showing that people are beginning to understand the Humanitarian Crisis and Crime at the Border. Numbers are going up fast, over 50%.” He was apparently referring to a new Quinnipiac University poll in which 54 percent of voters said that there is a security crisis along the border with Mexico, and 68 percent said there is a humanitarian crisis.

But that same poll found that Americans “remain solidly opposed to a wall on the Mexican border,” 55 percent to 43 percent, with a majority of voters saying that the wall is not a good use of taxpayer dollars, won’t make the U.S. safer, is not necessary to protect the border and is contrary to American values.

Overall, the poll found that, by a 63-30 margin, voters support the Democratic proposal to reopen the government while negotiating over border security and wall funding. Nearly two-thirds of voters oppose shutting down the government to get money for a wall — but two-thirds of Republicans support it.

“Trump just highlighted a poll that undermines his argument, secure in the knowledge that his followers will only hear the cherry-picked finding,” said Greg Sargent, a liberal opinion writer for The Washington Post.

The Quinnipiac poll also found that Trump’s attempt at using the presidential bully pulpit with last week’s televised address to the nation flopped, with only 2 percent of voters saying the speech changed their mind about building the wall.

Other key shutdown developments:

  • Trump Administration Will Bring Back Thousands of IRS Workers for Tax Season: The Trump administration has ordered thousands of furloughed federal employees to resume working, without pay, in order to minimize disruptive effects of the shutdown. As part of that plan, the Internal Revenue Service announced Tuesday that it will bring back nearly 60 percent of its workforce — more than 46,000 employees, including more than 34,000 workers in the agency section that processes tax returns and refunds, according to the Washington Examiner. The agency will still not perform audits during the shutdown. When the shutdown began last month, fewer than 10,000 workers, or about 12 percent of the IRS workforce, were kept on the job, according to The Washington Post.

  • Mitch McConnell Blocks Vote to Reopen Government: For the second time in two weeks, Senate Republicans blocked a package of bills passed by the House to reopen the government. "The solution to this is a negotiation between the one person in the country who can sign something into law, the president of the United States, and our Democratic colleagues," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday, according to The Hill. His Democratic counterpart, Sen. Chuck Schumer, urged McConnell to enter the negotiations. “There's only one person who can help America break through this gridlock: Leader McConnell. For the past month Leader McConnell has been content to hide behind the president, essentially giving him a veto over what comes to the floor of the Senate,” Schumer said.

  • House Dems Won’t Leave D.C. Next Week: House Democrats cancelled their planned recess for next week and will have lawmakers stay in Washington unless the shutdown is resolved.