Donald Trump hosted his first bipartisan talks to end the government shutdown on Jan. 2, nearly two weeks after the shutdown began. The meeting didn’t go especially well: the president characterized it as a “briefing” in which he and other officials could explain to members of Congress how horrible the conditions are at the border.
Two days later, on Jan. 4, Trump hosted another round of talks, though he opened the meeting with “a 15-minute profanity-laced rant about impeachment.” It was at this same meeting that the president told lawmakers he prefers the word “strike” to “shutdown.” The discussion was pointless.
On Saturday, Jan. 5, Vice President Mike Pence hosted two hours of talks with White House officials and senior congressional aides. They made no progress. Officials spoke again a day later, but to no avail. (Democratic staffers were reportedly frustrated that Republicans weren’t better prepared with substantive details.)
On Jan. 9, the president welcomed congressional leaders to the White House for a meeting. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she wouldn’t approve funding for a wall; at which point, Trump threw a little tantrum and literally walked away from the negotiating table.
All of which led to today’s meeting, which was somewhat different. Bloomberg News reported today:
President Donald Trump’s attempt to bypass Democratic congressional leaders to break open negotiations on the government shutdown fell flat as he failed to persuade any of the party’s rank-and-file members to attend a hastily arranged White House meeting Tuesday.
“Today, the president offered both Democrats and Republicans the chance to meet for lunch at the White House,” White House Secretary Sarah Sanders said. “Unfortunately, no Democrats will attend.”
At face value, that might make it sound as if Dems blew off an opportunity to work toward a solution. That’s not what happened.
The president didn’t invite congressional leaders to the White House for negotiations; he invited some members of the Blue Dog Coalition – centrist and conservative House Democrats from Republican-friendly districts – in the hopes of dividing Dems against one another. (It didn’t help that the meeting was pulled together “at the last minute,” and the invitation was “vague,” failing to tell lawmakers its purpose.)
By all accounts, Democratic leaders didn’t discourage members from accepting the invitation; the Blue Dogs simply saw through the scheme.
A spokesperson for Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.), a co-chair of the coalition, said, “Congressman Correa welcomes the opportunity to talk with the president about border security, as soon as the government is reopened.”
TPM’s report added, “Democrat after Democrat turned [the White House] down, uninterested in giving Trump a chance to berate them, try to embarrass them or try to get them to split with House Democratic leadership and entertain offers to reopen the government while funding a border wall that are anathema to most of the party.”
Trump told reporters yesterday morning, “Many of [the congressional Democrats] are saying, ‘We agree with you.’ Many of them are calling and many of them are breaking.”
That looked wrong yesterday. It looks worse now.