Government Soap Opera, How Trump and Pelosi Traded Blows
It’s been a month since a meeting at the White House between Trump, Schumer and Pelosi turned into a shouting match and the Trump-Pelosi drama has only intensified since.
Exchanges between President Trump and Nancy Pelosi have turned into a Trump-Pelosi drama akin to a mid-day soap opera, with the government shutdown as a backdrop. We take a look back at how we got here.
The Oval Office Meeting
On Tuesday, Dec. 11, in a now infamous meeting that turned into a televised shouting match, President Donald Trump met with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) in the Oval Office.
At the beginning of the meeting, President Trump mentioned the topics that were open for discussion: “We’re going to talk about the wall. I wanted to talk about criminal justice reform, just to let you know how positive that is. I want to talk about the farm bill, how positive that is. And I want to talk about the wall. And I will tell you, it’s a tough issue because we are in very opposite sides of — I really think I can say ‘border security,’ but certainly the wall.”
As the President had suggested, the meeting attendees remained on “opposite sides” on the issue of border security and the wall.
Pelosi stressed that the government should remain open: “I think the American people recognize that we must keep government open, that a shutdown is not worth anything, and that you should not have a Trump shutdown.”
The President responded, “I was going to call it a ‘Pelosi shutdown.’”
Although the discussion allegedly became quite heated, perhaps one of the most notable remarks the President made during the meeting was that he would take the blame for the pending government shutdown.
The statement that White House press secretary Sarah Sanders released sums up the Republican view of the meeting:
“President Trump had a constructive dialogue with Democrat leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. The President and the Democrat leaders agreed to support the passage of historic criminal justice reform, and discussed significant progress with the farm bill. Major disagreement remains on the issue of border security and transparency.
“Walls work—where walls have been built, illegal crossings have dropped substantially. President Trump made clear that any government funding measure must include responsible border security, including a wall, to protect the American people from drugs, crime, terrorism, public health threats, and the severe straining of the social safety net. Illegal immigration is deeply unfair to American workers, wage-earners, and taxpayers—costing billions of dollars and thousands of innocent lives. So far, the Democrat Party has made clear they would rather keep the border open than the government open. President Trump was grateful for the opportunity to let the press into the meeting so that the American people can see firsthand that while Republicans are fighting to protect our border, Democrats are fighting to protect illegal immigrants. This administration will always put Americans first.
“We will continue to pursue real solutions to defend our nation and uphold our laws—and hope Democrats will work with us in a bipartisan fashion to do so. A nation without borders is no nation at all.”
The remarks by President Trump and the other meeting attendees can be read in their entirety at whitehouse.gov.
Outside the White House after the meeting, Schumer and Pelosi spoke with the media and said that the President could sign the six appropriations bills already passed by the House and Senate and sign a continuing resolution (CR) for the Homeland Security bill to keep the government open and further debate border security, but Trump has so far refused to do so.
The meeting marked the beginning of the Trump-Pelosi standoff and hinted at the drama that would ensue.
The Government Shuts Down
Only 11 days after the White House meeting the government officially shut down on December 22. A series of legislative proposals would follow, proposals that attempted to salvage the shutdown and either temporarily fund the government or fund specific departments.
Two days before the shutdown, the Senate passed a short-term funding bill that would have kept the government open through early February but Trump said he refused to sign the bill.
Once Democrats took control of Congress, the House passed a spending package in early January that would reopen the government and allocated $1.3 billion in funding for “border security measures.” Trump flatly rejected the proposal and hinted at declaring a “national emergency” to fund the border wall.
Another pivotal moment came only days later in the Trump-Pelosi drama when Trump addressed the nation in a televised speech January 8th. Pelosi and Schumer countered with their own televised response accusing Trump of “manufacturing a crisis.” The next day Trump would walk out of a meeting with Democrats when they declined to fund a wall.
Republicans attempted to salvage the situation by proposing to reopen the government without wall funding while allowing for talks to continue regarding the wall, but Trump rejected the proposal.
Pelosi’s Proposal to Reschedule the State of the Union Address
Pelosi wrote a letter to President Trump on Jan. 16, petitioning him to either postpone the impending State of the Union address until after the government reopens or to deliver it in writing.
Pelosi said in the letter: “On January 3rd, it was my privilege as Speaker to invite you to deliver the State of the Union address on January 29th. The Constitution calls for the President to ‘from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union.’ During the 19th century and up until the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, these annual State of the Union messages were delivered to Congress in writing. And since the start of modern budgeting in Fiscal Year 1977, a State of the Union address has never been delivered during a government shutdown.”
On Dec. 19, 2000, the Secret Service was “designated as the lead federal agency responsible for coordinating, planning, exercising, and implementing security for National Special Security Events,” according to Pelosi. She brought to the President’s attention that both the US Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security had been furloughed for 26 days.
“Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government reopens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has re-opened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to the Congress on January 29th,” Pelosi continued.
Pelosi’s Canceled Trip
The next day, President Trump responded in a letter to Pelosi’s request to reschedule the State of the Union address.
“Due to the shutdown, I am sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt and Afghanistan has been postponed. We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the shutdown is over. In light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I am sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate,” said Trump. “I also feel that, 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. Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative.”
Trump closed the letter: “I look forward to seeing you soon and even more forward to watching our open and dangerous southern border finally receive the attention, funding, and security it so desperately deserves!”
At the time that Speaker Pelosi received President Trump’s letter, she was in her office preparing for a trip with members of Congress to depart on a “secret visit” to Brussels and to visit US troops in Afghanistan. Congress members were waiting on a United States Air Force bus outside the Capitol, ready to go to Joint Base Andrews and depart on a military aircraft.
Speaker Pelosi chose not to make the “journey by flying commercial,” as President Trump had suggested because of security concerns since the secretive trip was revealed and Speaker Pelosi is second in line to the Presidency and must travel on military transport as her Republican predecessor, Paul Ryan, did.
Trump-Pelosi Drama Final Chapter?
On day 29 of the shutdown (January 19) Trump took a turn at the negotiating table by offering the Democrats a deal that would extend temporary protections to DACA immigrants for a period of three years. Democrats rejected Trump’s offer and called it “inadequate.”
The government shutdown is now the longest in history.
The last government shutdown was during the Obama administration in September of 2013. The government was shut down for 16 days mainly due to disputes over two issues: raising the debt ceiling (how much the government is allowed to borrow) and funding for Obamacare.
Democrats and Republicans settled on a deal in mid-October agreeing to raise the debt ceiling and fund government through December while leaving Obamacare untouched.
The current government shutdown echoes the 2013 shutdown in that both had split Congresses though in reverse roles. In 2013 Democrats controlled the Senate and Republicans controlled the House, today it is the reverse.
And so here we are, on day 32 of the government shutdown with no final chapter in site.