President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are engaged in the bitter opposite of negotiations over the partial government shutdown, now in its 28th day, as they seek to cow one another into an embarrassing capitulation.
Following Pelosi’s suggestion that Trump reschedule his State of the Union address, the president on Thursday denied her a military plane for an unannounced trip to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The tit-for-tat plunged their relationship – never warm – into a freeze from which any compromise on a budget standoff that’s left 800,000 federal workers without paychecks seems distant.
The cost of their battle escalated late Thursday, when Trump pulled the U.S. delegation out of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The trip, which was to be led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, had drawn heat from Democrats about the optics of top administration officials hobnobbing with financial elites while federal workers sell toys and household items to pay bills.
As the political battle between Trump and Pelosi turns increasingly personal, a resolution may have to emerge from the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell met Thursday evening with Vice President Mike Pence and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, one of the few people in the White House who enjoys a level of bipartisan trust on Capitol Hill.
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No progress was made toward ending the impasse in the meeting, said a person familiar with the discussion.
While some Trump allies argue the president is ahead in the dispute, others are becoming more concerned he is losing the public relations battle and risks lasting political damage.
Trump came very close last week to ending the shutdown by declaring a national emergency on the border, a step he believes would allow him to circumvent Congress and redirect taxpayer money to a wall. But the president thinks he retains some leverage over Democrats because so many of the workers going unpaid in the federal workforce are Democrats. For example, Trump has repeatedly mentioned House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s suburban Maryland district, home to tens of thousands of federal employees.
Pelosi hadn’t announced her Afghanistan trip, which likely wouldn’t have been made public in advance for her security. She had planned to depart Thursday afternoon, according to a person with knowledge of her itinerary. Democrats questioned whether Trump had the authority to control congressional travel.
“We believe this is completely inappropriate by the president,” said House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff of California, who had intended to accompany Pelosi. “As far as we can tell this hasn’t happened in the annals of congressional history.”
After canceling her trip, Trump said Pelosi should remain in Washington to negotiate. He has demanded $5.7 billion for a proposed wall on the southern U.S. border that he said during his campaign would be paid for by Mexico. Pelosi has said she won’t discuss increasing spending for border security until the government is reopened.
“During this period, it would be better if you were in Washington negotiating with me and joining the Strong Border Security movement to end the shutdown,” Trump wrote. The White House has canceled all congressional use of military planes, an official said.
Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill pointed out that Trump had visited troops in Iraq since the shutdown began, as did a congressional delegation led by Republican Representative Lee Zeldin of New York.
“The purpose of the trip was to express appreciation and thanks to our men and women in uniform for their service and dedication, and to obtain critical national security and intelligence briefings from those on the front lines,” Hammill said in a statement.
In Congress, the House has passed a number of bills that would reopen the government, but McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has refused to hold Senate votes on any of them because of Trump’s opposition.
The House will return from a holiday weekend Tuesday night, after Democratic leaders canceled a planned week off because of the shutdown.
But while the Senate will be in session next week, after canceling its recess, Republican leaders aren’t planning to hold any votes. That means many lawmakers won’t be in Washington. Instead, members will be given 24 hours notice to return if there’s a deal.
GOP Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska expressed frustration that senators won’t be around next week while the shutdown goes on. She said she has told her party’s leaders she thought it would be a mistake to be out of town.
“There’s not going to be a lot of business going on here in the Congress next week,” Murkowski said.
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Bloomberg’s Saleha Mohsin, Justin Sink, Shannon Pettypiece and Margaret Talev.