Top Democrats Pull Out Of Planned Meeting With Trump

Nov 28, 2017

Updated at 4:52 p.m. ET

A planned White House meeting between President Trump and the bipartisan leaders of Congress turned out not to be bipartisan after all, after Democratic leaders suddenly pulled out of the Tuesday afternoon get-together.

In a photo op, President Trump sat between two empty chairs, with placards helpfully placed on the Roosevelt Room table labeling where Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, leader of the House Democrats, would have sat, had they attended.

The pair announced they would no longer take part after Trump tweeted on Tuesday morning he didn't "see a deal" between Democrats and the White House over funding the government past Dec. 8, when current funding is set to expire.

Trump repeated those charges to reporters, adding that the Democrats had been "all talk, no action," adding, "now it's even worse; now it's not even talk."

Tuesday afternoon, Pelosi responded to what she labeled Trump's "verbal abuse," calling the empty chairs a stunt.

Democratic votes will be needed to approve the spending measures, since while Republicans are in the majority in both the House and Senate, many of their members typically oppose spending bills.

Earlier, the Democrats said in a joint statement that rather than going to the White House for a "show meeting," they will continue to negotiate with Republican congressional leaders to avert a government shutdown.

The statement from Schumer and Pelosi continued:

"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. 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."

Trump said he would "absolutely blame" Democrats if Congress failed to pass the spending bills needed to keep the government open. He said it would cause "illegals pouring in" and "crime pouring in."

Earlier, in a brief news conference, Schumer called on the president to "stop tweeting and start leading."

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had called the Democrats' decision not to meet with Trump "disappointing."

In their own joint statement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said:

"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."

McConnell told reporters that the Democrats' refusal to take part in the White House meeting "strikes me as a lack of seriousness." McConnell also said that he had never turned down an invitation from former President Barack Obama to meet, although he did give a speech to the Federalist Society instead of attending a bipartisan dinner with Obama in 2010.

Congress has a host of issues to deal with before the end of the year, including a spending bill to keep the government operating past Dec. 8. Democrats and some Republicans also want to include legislation that would enable the so-called DREAMers, people in the country illegally who were brought in as children, to remain in the country.

Congress also needs to agree on reauthorizing the Children's Health Insurance Program, which some states say is already running low on cash. And Republicans and Democrats are at odds over defense spending levels.

All of those issues are complicating negotiations to keep the government open past next week. It's likely that a short-term extension could push negotiations closer to Christmas. Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit