By ZEKE MILLER, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump was firing Twitter barbs at Democrats this weekend as talks to end a weeklong partial government shutdown remained at a stalemate.
Trump was cooped up in the White House after canceling a vacation to his private Florida club.
As the disruption in federal services and public employees’ pay appeared set to continue into the new year, there were no signs of any substantive negotiation between the blame-trading parties.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Sunday that Trump is not reaching out to Democrats, rather he’s waiting for Democrats to reach out to him. “It is with them,” she told “Fox News Sunday.”
Trump is holding out for billions in federal funds for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, which Democrats have said they were intent on blocking.
There has been little direct contact between the sides during the stalemate, and Trump did not ask Republicans, who hold a monopoly on power in Washington until Jan. 3, to keep Congress in session.
Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he hoped to end the shutdown by offering Democrats incentives to get them to vote for wall funding.
“To my Democratic friends, there will never be a deal without wall funding,” Graham said Sunday on CNN.
Graham is proposing to help two groups of immigrants get approval to continue living in the U.S: about 700,000 young “Dreamer” immigrants brought illegally as children and about 400,000 people receiving temporary protected status because they are from countries struggling with natural disasters or armed conflicts. He also said the compromise should include changes in federal law to discourage people from trying to enter the U.S. illegally.
“Democrats have a chance here to work with me and others, including the president, to bring legal status to people who have very uncertain lives,” Graham said.
He said he would discuss the proposal with Trump over lunch Sunday at the White House, though it was unclear if the president or Democrats were open to such an approach. A previous deal that addressed the status of Dreamers failed to pass as a result of escalating White House demands.
As he called for Democrats to negotiate on the wall, Trump brushed off criticism that his administration bore any responsibility for the recent deaths of two migrant children in Border Patrol custody. Trump claimed the deaths were “strictly the fault of the Democrats and their pathetic immigration policies that allow people to make the long trek thinking they can enter our country illegally.” His comments on Twitter came as his Homeland Security secretary met with medical professionals and ordered policy changes meant to better protect children detained at the border.
Trump earlier had upped the brinkmanship by threatening anew to close the border with Mexico to press Congress to cave to his demand for money to pay for a wall. Democrats are vowing to pass legislation restoring the government as soon as they take control of the House on Thursday, but that won’t accomplish anything unless Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate go along with it.
Talks have been at a stalemate for more than a week, after Democrats said the White House offered to accept $2.5 billion for border security. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told Vice President Mike Pence that it wasn’t acceptable, nor was it guaranteed that Trump, under intense pressure from his conservative base to fulfill his signature campaign promise, would settle for that amount.
Conway claimed Sunday that “the president has already compromised” by dropping his request for the wall from $25 billion, and she called on Democrats to return to the negotiating table.
But Conway indicated that Trump has moved off his demand for a physical wall along parts of the border, as he promised during his 2016 campaign, saying discussion of a wall “is a silly semantic argument.”
“There may be a wall in some places, there may be steel slats, there may be technological enhancements,” Conway said. “But only saying ‘wall or no wall’ is being very disingenuous and turning a complete blind eye to what is a crisis at the border.”
Trump has remained out of the public eye since returning to the White House early Thursday from a 29-hour visit to U.S. troops in Iraq, instead taking to Twitter to attack Democrats. He also moved to defend himself from criticism that he couldn’t deliver on the wall while the GOP controlled both the House and Senate.
“For those that naively ask why didn’t the Republicans get approval to build the Wall over the last year, it is because IN THE SENATE WE NEED 10 DEMOCRAT VOTES, and they will gives us “NONE” for Border Security!,” he tweeted. “Now we have to do it the hard way, with a Shutdown.”
The shutdown is forcing hundreds of thousands of federal workers and contractors to stay home or work without pay.
Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Kevin Freking in Washington contributed to this report.