Trump, Democrats hold ‘contentious’ talks, fail to end shutdown

U.S. President Trump speaks to reporters about border security in the Briefing Room at the White House in Washington
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters about border security in the Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 3, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

January 4, 2019

By Richard Cowan and Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders failed to strike a deal on Friday to end a partial shutdown of the U.S. government as they fought over Trump’s request for $5 billion to fund his signature wall on the border with Mexico, lawmakers said.

Trump described a meeting at the White House over the shutdown as productive but Nancy Pelosi, the newly elected speaker of the House of Representatives after the Democrats took control of the chamber on Thursday, said it was sometimes contentious.

“We told the president we needed the government open,” Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters after the meeting in the White House Situation Room. “He resisted. In fact, he said he’d keep the government closed for a very long period of time, months or even years.”

Trump, speaking to reporters after the Democrats, confirmed he was prepared for the shutdown to last for months or years but hoped it can reopen in a few days.

About 800,000 federal workers have been unpaid due to the closure of about a quarter of the federal government for the past two weeks as Trump withholds his support for a bill that would fully fund the government until he secures the money for the wall.

Trump says the wall is needed to stem the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs over the border. When he ran for president in 2016, Trump frequently promised to build the wall and vowed Mexico would pay for it, which it has refused to do.

Pelosi said the two sides agreed to continue talking.

“But we recognize on the Democratic side that we really cannot resolve this until we open up government and we made that very clear to the president,” she said.

Democrats took over the House this week after gains in last November’s congressional elections.

Hundreds of thousands of federal employees have either been furloughed or are working without pay because of the shutdown.

It is showing signs of straining the country’s immigration system and has been blamed for worsening backlogs in courts and complicating hiring for employers.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey, Susan Cornwell and Lisa Lambert; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Bill Trott)

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