U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Selma, said that President Donald J. Trump’s threat to shut down the government if his border wall project is not funded “disgraceful.”
The President made the comments in a televised White House meeting with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California.
“We need funding for teacher pay, health care, for job skills training and access to higher ed,” Rep. Sewell said on social media. “We need funding for roads, bridges, water and wastewater systems. Shutting down the government over funding for a wall that the public doesn’t want is disgraceful. Plain and simple.”
Congress is currently considering the delayed 2019 Homeland Security budget. A key sticking point is a wall on the southern border that Trump promised in the 2016 election. Pres. Trump is demanding that the budget include a $5 billion appropriation for beginning construction of his wall along the approximately 1,954 miles of the U.S./Mexico border. The Democrats have offered just $1.3 billion for general border security. While Republicans have a one-seat majority in the Senate and a majority in the House, passing a budget is going to require bipartisan support, given Senate rules.
Leader Pelosi told the President, “You can’t win,” on the border wall issue and Senator Schumer warned that the President would be held responsible if there was a shutdown.
An angry President Trump replied: “I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck. So I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not gonna blame you for it. The last time you shut it down it didn’t work. I will take the mantle of shutting down. And I’m gonna shut it down for border security.”
Leader Pelosi replied, “Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you so that we can work together in a bipartisan way to meet the needs of the American people. I think the American people recognize that we must keep government open — that a shutdown is not worth anything. And that you should not have a Trump shutdown.”
“A what, did you say?” Pres. Trump said.
“Trump shutdown,” Pelosi responded. “You have the White House. You have the Senate. You have the House of Representatives. You have the votes. You should pass it.”
“No, we don’t have the votes, Nancy,” Pres. Trump replied. “Because in the Senate we need 60 votes.
“No, but in the House,” Rep. Pelosi said. “You can bring it up right now.”
After the meeting, Schumer and Pelosi told reporters outside the White House that the shutdown will be Mr. Trump’s responsibility, and Trump’s alone.
“The President has the White House, he has the Senate, he has the House of Representatives, all in Republican control,” Pelosi said. “He has the power to keep government open. Instead, he has admitted in this meeting that he will take responsibility, the Trump shutdown is something that can be avoided. The American people do not need at the time of economic uncertainty, people losing jobs, the market in the mood and the rest, the Trump shutdown is luxury that the American people cannot afford.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement after the meeting, “President Trump had a constructive dialogue with Democrat Leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. The President and the Democrat Leaders agreed to support the passage of historic criminal justice reform, and discussed significant progress with the farm bill. Major disagreement remains on the issue of border security and transparency. Walls work – where walls have been built, illegal crossings have dropped substantially. President Trump made clear that any government funding measure must include responsible border security, including a wall, to protect the American people from drugs, crime, terrorism, public health threats, and the severe straining of the social safety net.”
A shutdown does not necessarily benefit the President’s position. There is only expected to be a week left in this lame-duck Congress. When Congress returns from the Christmas break, Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) will be out as the Speaker of the House and instead, Pelosi will be Speaker because Democrats picked up 40 Republican seats and will have the majority of the House for the first time since 2010. Passing a budget through a Democratic-controlled House could be more difficult for the President.
Sewell represents Alabama’s Seventh Congressional District and is a member of the House Democratic leadership. Sewell is presently the ranking member on the Subcommittee on the Department of Defense Intelligence and Overhead Architecture so could chair that important subcommittee when the Democrats take over in January.
Original reporting by Fox News and CBS News contributed to this report.