WASHINGTON – The leader of the Democratic opposition in the US House of Representatives said on Thursday that President Donald Trump is more interested in arguing about his proposed wall on the Mexican border than negotiating with lawmakers to end the partial government shutdown.
“I don’t even know if the president wants the wall. I think he just wants a debate on the wall,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told a Capitol Hill press conference on the 20th day of the shutdown.
The Republican president demands that Congress provide $5.7 billion in funds for the wall as a condition for his agreeing to sign a spending bill that would allow affected government departments to resume normal operations.
Democrats say they are prepared to appropriate $1.3 billion for border security, including enhancements to existing fences, but will not pay for construction of a new barrier.
Pelosi said that Trump has undermined talks aimed at resolving the impasse by imposing new conditions.
“He keeps increasing the amount of money, increasing the amount of beds (for migrants detained on the border), increasing the obstacles to finding a solution – because I don’t think he really wants a solution. I think he loves the distraction that this is from his other problems,” the California congresswoman said.
A meeting Wednesday at the White House involving Trump and Republican and Democratic congressional leaders was cut short when the president got up from the table after Pelosi told him she would not support the wall.
The president said afterward on Twitter that he left because the meeting was “a total waste of time.”
“I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier? Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye, nothing else works!,” Trump tweeted.
The House speaker suggested Thursday that Trump’s dramatic walkout had been planned in advance.
“I think the meeting was a set-up so he could walk out,” Pelosi said. “I think he thought we would stay there when he left. He got up, and we got up.”