President Donald Trump, future House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer erupted in an on-camera fight in the Oval Office over border wall funding on Tuesday.
The president argued that funding the wall was a “national emergency” and proposed $5 billion in funding. Schumer refused, insisting that he would only provide just $1.6 billion in border security funds.
In response, Trump said he would shut down the government and take responsibility for it if they failed to include additional wall funding.
“I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck, because the people of this country don’t want criminals and people that have lots of problems, and drugs pouring into our country,” he said in response to Schumer. “So I will take the mantle, I will be the one to shut it down, I’m not going to blame you for it.”
Republicans already passed spending measures for most of the Federal government but postponed a fight over funding for the Department of Homeland Security and other cabinet-level agencies. The funding deadline is December 21.
Trump surprised White House reporters by calling them into the Oval Office conversation with Democrats that was originally designated as closed to the press. During the debate, both Pelosi and Schumer protested that it was taking place on camera.
Trump admitted that border security was a “tough issue” noting that Pelosi and Schumer opposed the idea of a wall. He cited border statistics showing that illegal traffic dropped substantially after they finished portions of the wall barriers.
Pelosi was frustrated at the tone of the debate in front of the media.
“I don’t think you should have a debate in front of the press,” she said.
She also defied the idea that Trump had the votes to get the wall funded, daring him to pass a wall funding bill in the House of Representatives.
“You will not win,” Pelosi said. “You do not have the votes in the House.”
Pelosi said that a shutdown was “not worth anything” especially his promised wall.
Trump expressed frustration that he needed ten votes in the Senate to get wall funding passed and insisted that he would not keep the government fully funded unless it had more money for border security.
“Let’s call a halt to this,” Pelosi said, pleading off an ongoing discussion.
Schumer also protested that the discussion was taking place in front of the press.
“Let’s debate in private,” he pleaded.
Schumer tod Trump that he did not need a wall to provide border security, citing “experts.” He also taunted Trump for Republicans losing the House of Representatives, reminding him that “elections have consequences.” When Trump reminded Schumer that Republicans added to their majority in the Senate, Schumer sneered, “When the president brags that he won North Dakota and Indiana, we’re in real trouble.”
“This has spiraled downward,” Pelosi concluded, calling the debate “unfortunate.”
“It’s not bad Nancy, it’s called transparency,” Trump replied.
He again vowed that he would not sign any funding bill without substantial border security funding.
“If we don’t have border security, we’ll shut down the government,” Trump said, adding, “We have to have the wall.”
Trump also reserved the right to have the military build the wall if Congress refused to fund it, possibly avoiding a partial government shutdown.
After the meeting, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders described the dialogue with Schumer and Pelosi as “constructive” despite acknowledging “major disagreement” on border security and transparency.
“Walls work – where walls have been built, illegal crossings have dropped substantially,” she said, and added, “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.”