- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Democratic leaders ignited a new shutdown showdown in Washington on Tuesday after they refused to show for what was supposed to be a bipartisan meeting with President Trump, trying to cut him out of negotiations as Congress faces a long to-do list before year’s end.

Their attempt to divide and conquer failed, though, after Republican leaders stuck by Mr. Trump and attended the meeting at the White House anyway, saying Democrats were recklessly risking a shutdown by refusing to talk to the country’s chief executive and the man who must sign whatever bills Congress eventually passes.

“They’ve been all talk, they’ve been no action. Now it’s even worse; it’s not even talk,” Mr. Trump said.

He sat between two chairs left empty for Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democrats who skipped the meeting. The White House even provided nameplates to make sure it was clear who was refusing to negotiate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said that in his decades of service under administrations of both parties, he had never refused an offer to meet the president.

“Only one person in America can sign a bill into law, and that’s the president of the United States,” Mr. McConnell said. “I think the Democratic leaders in the House and Senate need to understand the way the government works. The administration has to be a part of the ultimate negotiation of what the spending level is going to be.”

SEE ALSO: Sarah Huckabee Sanders accuses Dems of ‘playing political games’ by skipping out on meeting

Democrats blamed Mr. Trump for upsetting them earlier in the day, after he posted on Twitter that he couldn’t accept the wish list Mr. Schumer and Mrs. Pelosi are seeking as Congress writes a 2018 spending bill.

When Mr. Trump said a deal might not be possible, the Democrats said they’d had enough Twitter abuse and were canceling the meeting. They begged Mr. McConnell and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, to join them in direct negotiations without the president involved.

“It’s time to stop tweeting and start leading,” Mr. Schumer said, insisting that congressional negotiators were close to a deal until Mr. Trump’s Twitter post derailed things.

The president’s tweets have repeatedly landed him in trouble, but Tuesday’s was tamer than many others. In it, Mr. Trump previewed the scheduled meeting with “Chuck and Nancy” but sounded grim about chances for an agreement.

“Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked, are weak on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes. I don’t see a deal!” he said.

Democrats said that was beyond the pale, and they backed their leaders’ decision to ditch the president.

“The president reminded the American public that he has the capacity — by whipping off an ill-timed and ill-conceived tweet — to derail an otherwise important negotiating session,” said Sen. Christopher A. Coons, Delaware Democrat.

Mrs. Pelosi took to Twitter to deliver a spanking to the president.

“@realDonaldTrump now knows that his verbal abuse will no longer be tolerated,” she said, mocking the president’s own tweeting style. “Poor Ryan and McConnell relegated to props. Sad!”

An undeterred Mr. Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday evening to excoriate the Democrats again by accusing them of jeopardizing national security with shutdown threats.

“After North Korea missile launch, it’s more important than ever to fund our gov’t & military! Dems shouldn’t hold troop funding hostage for amnesty & illegal immigration. I ran on stopping illegal immigration and won big. They can’t now threaten a shutdown to get their demands,” he said.

Congress is rushing against a number of deadlines.

States will soon begin to lose money under the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and areas hit by hurricanes are desperate for an infusion of cash before the end of the year. Meanwhile, Democrats have set a self-imposed December deadline to grant illegal immigrant Dreamers full citizenship rights, and Mr. Trump says he wants funding for his border wall and other immigration restrictions.

But the biggest deadline is Dec. 8, when the current government funding bill expires. Republicans are looking for big increases in defense spending, pointing to growing world trouble spots, while Democrats say they need domestic spending increases. Unless a deal is struck, the government would go into another partial shutdown.

The last shutdown in 2013 lasted more than two weeks and included some high-profile disruptions, including the Obama administration’s closure of the open-air monuments on the National Mall.

That time, Republicans controlled just the House while Democrats held the Senate and the White House, and voters blamed them for trying to dictate the outcome of the spending fight. Now in control of all three levers, Republicans would suffer even more from a shutdown, Democrats said.

“They know, with them in charge, a shutdown falls on their backs,” Mr. Schumer said.

Mr. Trump, though, said he won’t hesitate to blame Democrats for a shutdown.

“If it happens, it’s going to be over illegals pouring into the country, crime pouring into the country, no border wall — which everybody wants,” he said.

Rep. Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, said it would be difficult for Democrats to blame Republicans for a shutdown if they were the ones who walked away from talks with the president.

“I hope they are wise enough to learn from our mistakes,” he said.

“You worry anytime there is a hiccup this late in the process,” he said. “Hopefully, everyone can cool off a bit and get back to work.”

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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