WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer Sunday said President Donald Trump is preventing a deal to avert a partial government shutdown because of a “temper tantrum” over his demand for more funding to build a border wall.
Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” just five days before funding deadline to keep several key federal agencies open, Schumer, D-N.Y., said that he and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., are standing firm in their offers to Trump and that it’s up to the president to come to the table.
"We Democrats, Leader Pelosi and I, offered the president two options as to how to avoid the shutdown,” he said.
“We should not let a temper tantrum, threats, push us in the direction of doing something even our Republicans colleagues know is wrong."
Shutdown gamesmanship has defined the final weeks of the lame-duck congressional session, as both sides struggle to reach a spending agreement.
The key sticking point has been over funding for the border wall, the signature promise Trump made on the campaign trail.
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The president wants at least $5 billion for construction on the wall, a steep price tag that Democrats have called a non-starter. They've proposed $1.6 billion for what they deem “border security,” arguing that the money won’t go toward a wall and that Republicans are responsible for finding a solution since the party has control of Congress (even though any agreement would need some bipartisan support in the Senate).
That divide brought Schumer and Pelosi to the White House last week for an unprecedented and tense exchange with Trump that played out on television.
Complicating the dynamic is Trump's willingness to accept responsibility for the shutdown. During that Oval Office meeting with Schumer and Pelosi, Trump said he would be "proud to shut down the government for border security."
It’s an argument that may resonate with those in his base who see the wall as an important symbol of a tougher approach to border security, but it was also a comment Democrats think will shield them from responsibility in a shutdown.
Schumer argued that there are not enough votes for the full $5 billion authorization in either the House or Senate, a point that Republicans have contested. Accusing the president of putting government funding at risk to “throw a bone to his base,” Schumer said that it’s up to Republicans to get Trump to the table.
"They just have to have the guts to tell President Trump he’s off on the deep end here and all he is going to get with his temper tantrum is a shutdown. He will not get a wall,” Schumer said.
During his interview, Schumer also addressed another major point of disagreement in Congress — the path forward on health care.
He blasted a Friday decision in federal court that ruled the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional as an “awful ruling” and promised that Democrats will fight “tooth and nail” to ensure that the law is protected.
Also appearing on "Meet the Press," Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, a member of GOP leadership, criticized the Affordable Care Act as a “poorly thought-out” plan that’s had “negative” impacts on families. But cautioned that the ruling has “no immediate impact” until the case can be appealed.
And while admitting that there’s far from a consensus in Congress around a health care plan, even amongst Republicans, he said that there’s universal concern on the right about a Democratic push toward single-payer health.
“The one thing I think we would be able to unite on is Medicare-for-all would wind up meaning Medicare for none,” he said.
“There is no way that will happen and there’s no way voters will let that happen.”