“Chuck and Nancy” finally went to the White House on Thursday. But there was no script-flipping deal to be had with President Donald Trump this time.
Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., signaled the sides are still too far apart to close a deal, saying at the start of the meeting he was “glad we’re here to resume conversations.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., confirmed the meeting between congressional leaders and Trump did not come to a final agreement.
“We had a good meeting. We agreed to keep on talking,” he said. “We agreed that we’d try to resolve all these issues in the next couple of weeks.”
When asked if the meeting brought lawmakers and the White House any closer to a spending caps deal, McConnell said “I wouldn’t say that, but it was a good meeting. Everybody wants to get to an outcome. And we agreed to keep on talking.”
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., were slated to join Ryan and McConnell last Tuesday. They opted out of the White House gathering after Trump tweeted this about his differences with “Chuck and Nancy” over immigration policy and other matters: “I don’t see a deal!”
Meeting with “Chuck and Nancy” today about keeping government open and working. Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked, are weak on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes. I don’t see a deal!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 28, 2017
The two sides have spent much of the nine days since trading barbs about the tweet: whether the Democratic leaders should have skipped; if the other side is ready to negotiate in good faith; and their demands for the government spending measure.
Pelosi insisted again earlier in the day Democrats want to address the DREAM Act by the end of the year, a demand that could complicate the spending talks. She also made clear Democrats want to secure a dollar-for-dollar increase in domestic spending to match any funding boost for the military.
President Trump and GOP leaders told Democratic leaders that immigration matters should be divorced from the spending bill negotiations, said Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
“The parties agreed on the need for eliminating the defense sequester to deal with the grave national security threats we face,” she said in a statement. “The president, Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell also stressed that negotiations on immigration should be held separately on a different track, and not as part of the government funding bill.”
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The House minority leader went to the White House with a long list of demands for the coming government funding bill. In addition to the DREAM Act and a domestic spending hike, that list includes what she described as “urgent needs” like funds to combat the opioid crisis, veterans funding, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and community health centers, “saving” some pensions, and new disaster relief funds.
Ryan indicated Republicans are mulling full fiscal 2018 funding for the Pentagon while keeping other departments funded at existing levels, something Pelosi rejects.
Thursday’s meeting appeared to produce no resolution to those differences, despite the president’s frequent boasting about being a master deal-maker.
The “vast majority” of the meeting between President Trump and congressional leaders focused on defense and domestic spending caps, a senior Democratic aide said. Republicans and the White House want $54 billion more for defense in the long-term spending bill, and Democratic leaders said they are “happy” to agree if domestic spending gets an identical hike, the aide said.
Pelosi leveraged the portion of the meeting when reporters were allowed into the Oval Office. She listed several issues she wants included in the bill and said both Trump and Democrats support them. That list includes the children’s health program, combating the opioid crisis, and veterans funding. She referred to those as “things that have bipartisan support in Congress.”
As she ticked off the issues, the president nodded.
There wasn’t drama like the last time the five leaders got together. Back in September Trump shocked Ryan, McConnell and his own staff by cutting a deal with Schumer and Pelosi.
At the time, Trump agreed to back a three-month debt-limit extension and the three-month continuing resolution that expires late Friday night. He also rejected several GOP proposals on extending a borrowing limit deadline during a closed-door Oval Office meeting with the congressional leaders from both parties, according to a Democratic source briefed on the meeting.