WASHINGTON — Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer Sunday signaled that there's little hope for an end to the government shutdown as both sides continue to hold firm on the fate of funding for President Donald Trump's border wall.
Appearing on "Meet the Press," Hoyer, the Maryland Democrat who is the second-highest ranking Democrat in the House caucus, cited a list of Republicans who have questioned the need for a wall on the southern border in the past, arguing that even GOP members of Congress don't believe it is a smart use of federal dollars.
And he accused both Republicans and Trump of holding federal employees "hostage" in the hopes of getting Democrats to acquiesce to a border wall plan the president hasn't fully explained.
"We don't think the wall is good technology to do the objective," Hoyer said. "The administration has not come up with any specific plan as to how they are going to spend this money."
Meanwhile, Mulvaney said Democrats are the ones holding federal workers "hostage" on border security after failing to solve the immigration debate during the two years of unified Democratic control in Washington after the 2008 election. And he said the president is standing firm on his insistence for more money for a physical barrier at the border.
"Call it a wall, call it a fence, the president actually said he didn't care what you call it. He even offered to let the Democrats help him design something. He says as long as it's effective, he doesn't care what you call it. We need something to prevent people from coming into this country illegally" Mulvaney said.
"If he has to give up a concrete wall, replace it with a steel fence in order to do that so that Democrats can say, 'see, he's not building a wall anymore,' that should help us move in the right direction."
The partial shutdown is now entering its third week with little progress toward ending the stalemate.
Staff members from both sides met on Saturday, but while administration aides initially framed the talks as "productive," President Trump tweeted Saturday afternoon "not much headway made today."
Saturday's talks were just the latest in a series of meetings between the administration and congressional leaders in the past week that have yielded no common ground on wall funding.
Possibly complicating the issue is a public squabble over whether aggressive calls for impeachment by progressive Democrats are hurting attempts to come together.
Washington has been abuzz over Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib's recent profane comment about impeaching Trump, with Republicans pointing to the call as proof Democrats aren't willing to compromise.
Hoyer told "Meet the Press" that he didn't see impeachment as "inevitable" and that Democrats aren't focused primarily on the issue.
"That's not what we are focused on. We're focused on substantive bills," he said.
"I think the impeachment talks right now are a distraction."