Schumer, Pelosi to Skip Trump Meeting -- 2nd Update

By Kristina Peterson Features Dow Jones Newswires

Congressional Democratic leaders pulled out of a planned meeting with President Donald Trump set for Tuesday afternoon after the president suggested in a tweet that he didn't see a deal emerging over how to keep the government funded.

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said they would seek instead to meet with GOP congressional leaders.

"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," Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer said in a joint statement Tuesday.

Mr. Trump had signaled earlier Tuesday that he planned to take a tough line on any discussions over immigration that come up in negotiations on keeping the government funded beyond next week.

The government's current funding will expire after Dec. 8, and Democrats, whose votes may be needed to keep the government open, have indicated they hope to include in a year-end spending bill protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. at a young age by their parents. Mr. Trump in September ended an Obama-era program protecting many of these immigrants, known as Dreamers, but he gave Congress until March to come up with legislation handling the Dreamers' fate.

"Meeting with 'Chuck and Nancy' today about keeping government open and working," Mr. Trump tweeted earlier Tuesday, before charging that the Democratic leaders want "illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked." He added, "I don't see a deal!"

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Later Tuesday morning, Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer said they had instead requested a meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.).

"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," Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer said in their joint statement.

Messrs. Ryan and McConnell insisted in a joint statement that Democrats attend the meeting scheduled at the White House.

"We have important work to do, and Democratic leaders have continually found new excuses not to meet with the administration to discuss these issues," the GOP leaders said in a joint statement. "There is a meeting at the White House this afternoon, and if Democrats want to reach an agreement, they will be there."

In early September, Mr. Trump shocked GOP leaders by overriding their objections and striking a deal with Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer to keep the government funded until early December, raising the federal government's borrowing limit and passing relief aid for victims of severe storms.

Mr. Trump's tweet on Tuesday suggested he wanted to open with a tougher negotiating stance on the complicated, interlocking legislative deadlines facing the government next month. The statement could help address conservative critics' fears that he would too readily agree to Democratic proposals. But it came at the cost of angering Democratic leaders, whose cooperation will be needed as Congress heads toward a month crammed with legislative deadlines.

In the short term, lawmakers are expected to pass a short-term spending patch, likely next week, that would keep the government funded until late December. But in the long term, they need to complete two politically challenging legislative tasks.

They need to reach an agreement on overall spending levels for the remainder of fiscal year 2018. Without a top-line budget deal, federal spending will drop to lower levels established in the wake of a bruising fight in 2011 over raising the debt limit. Congressional leaders and White House officials have been discussing a two-year budget deal that would raise spending by about $200 billion over two years.

Republicans want to raise military spending but have balked at boosting nondefense spending by an equivalent amount. Democrats are pushing for comparable increases on both sides.

In addition, once Congress has agreed to an overall funding level, lawmakers need to write the detailed spending bill that divvies that money up for the rest of fiscal year 2018, which ends next Sept. 30.

That spending bill will need Democratic votes to pass the Senate, where most legislation requires 60 votes to clear procedural hurdles. Republicans hold 52 of the chamber's seats.

Some Democrats have said they wouldn't vote for a spending bill that doesn't include protections for Dreamers, setting up a possible government shutdown in late December. But Democratic leaders have been vague about whether they would move to shutter the government if the spending bill doesn't address their concerns over immigration.

Many Republicans also want to pass legislation protecting the Dreamers from deportation, but they are likely to want border security and immigration enforcement measures to go along with it to avoid angering conservative voters. Democrats have said they are open to some measures, such as tightening border security, but would oppose construction of a physical wall along the length of the border with Mexico.

Write to Kristina Peterson at kristina.peterson@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 28, 2017 12:53 ET (17:53 GMT)