House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer plan to sit out a White House meeting Tuesday with President Donald Trump after he tweeted that he doesn’t see making a year-end spending deal with them. They would prefer to simply cut the president out of negotiations altogether, they said.
“Given that the President doesn’t see a deal between Democrats and the White House, we believe the best path forward is to continue negotiating with our Republican counterparts in Congress instead,” the Democratic leaders said in a statement. “Rather than going to the White House for a show meeting that won’t result in an agreement, we’ve asked Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan to meet this afternoon.”
Earlier Tuesday, Trump tweeted that his differences with Democratic leaders over immigration policy could prevent a deal on a year-end spending package.
The president noted that he was meeting Tuesday afternoon with “‘Chuck and Nancy’ … about keeping government open and working.” Also scheduled to attend the White House meeting were House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
But Trump signaled any Democratic efforts to use a shutdown-averting spending measure to make some of their immigration demands law could be a deal-breaker. His signature would be required to make any fiscal 2018 funding bill law.
“Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked, are weak on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes,” Trump wrote, adding: “I don’t see a deal!”
An aide to Ryan indicated the White House meeting was still on, saying the speaker’s schedule has not changed.
Before the Democratic leaders issued their statement, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn did not want to comment on how Trump’s tweet may affect negotiations between party leaders.
“The president speaks for himself,” he said.
But the Pelosi and Schumer response explicitly states they would prefer to freeze out Trump and instead negotiate directly with GOP leaders.
Watch: Schumer Talks About Skipping White House Meeting on Senate Floor
“If the president, who already said earlier this year that ‘our country needs a good shutdown,’ isn’t interested in addressing the difficult year end agenda, we’ll work with those Republicans who are, as we did in April,” Pelosi and Schumer said. “We look forward to continuing to work in good faith, as we have been for the last month, with our Republican colleagues in Congress to do just that.”
Ryan and McConnell, though, issued their own statement criticizing the Democrats’ move.
“We have important work to do, and Democratic leaders have continually found new excuses not to meet with the administration to discuss these issues. Democrats are putting government operations, particularly resources for our men and women on the battlefield, at great risk by pulling these antics. There is a meeting at the White House this afternoon, and if Democrats want to reach an agreement, they will be there.”
In his opening remarks on the floor Tuesday afternoon, Schumer said the president shot first, resulting in the standstill.
“The president said I don’t see a deal three hours before a meeting, before we had anything to say,” Schumer said.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday morning, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland said he reads the statement Pelosi and Schumer issued as, “You’re on your own, Mr. President.”
Hoyer said Trump’s tweet is “absolutely false” and is just him “pandering to his angry base.”
“It it’s totally antithetical to trying to get some kind of agreement on what he said he’d do,” Hoyer said.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called Pelosi and Schumer pulling out of the meeting “disappointing.” The meeting will go on with President Trump and GOP leaders.
In a statement, she said the senior Democrats are “refusing to come to the table and discuss urgent issues.”
“The president’s invitation to the Democrat leaders still stands and he encourages them to put aside their pettiness, stop the political grandstanding, show up and get to work. These issues are too important,” Sanders said. “The meeting will proceed as scheduled with Speaker Ryan, Leader McConnell and administration officials who are committed to getting things done. If the Democrats believe the American people deserve action on these critical year-end issues as we do, they should attend.”
Jennifer Shutt contributed to this story.Watch: Hatch on Tax Bill Differences With House: ‘We’re Willing to Work Together’