Trump, Pelosi Trade Taunts Over Border Wall, Government Shutdown
WASHINGTON/CAPITOL HILL —
U.S. President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi traded taunts Thursday, but there was no end in sight for the record 27-day partial government shutdown in a dispute over his demand for a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.
"While many Democrats in the House and Senate would like to make a deal, Speaker Pelosi won't let them negotiate," Trump contended in a speech at the Defense Department. "The party has been hijacked by the open borders fringe within the party, the radical left becoming the radical Democrats. Hopefully Democrat lawmakers will step forward to do what is right for our country, and what's right for our country is border security at the strongest level."
Pelosi said Trump's "insistence on the wall is a luxury we can no longer afford."
She called for Trump to delay his scheduled Jan. 29 State of the Union address until the government reopens. He, in turn, said he was denying her use of military aircraft for her planned trip to Brussels, Egypt and Afghanistan because of the shutdown.
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Pelosi said that 90 percent of illegal drugs and other contraband are brought into the United States at ports of entry, which would not be prevented by a wall. She called for more security spending that is "evidence based," and filling 3,000 vacant border patrol jobs.
Trump argued that a quarter of government operations "remains shut down because congressional Democrats refuse to approve border security. We're going to have border security. It's going to be tight, it's going to be strong."
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Pelosi called again for Trump to reopen the government while talks continue on border security, a plea Trump has rejected. She voiced concern for the 800,000 federal workers who have been furloughed by the shutdown or forced to work without pay, although Trump has signed legislation mandating retroactive pay when the impasse ends.
"Not only are these workers not paid, they are not appreciated by this administration," said Pelosi, who leads the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. "We should respect what they do for their country."
Pelosi, after suggesting Wednesday that the Republican president delay the State of the Union address out of security concerns because many security agents are furloughed or working without pay, on Thursday said bluntly, "Let's get a date when the government is open."
Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen said her agency and the Secret Service, which guards Trump and his family, "are fully prepared to support and secure the State of the Union." Pelosi said Nielsen instead "should be advocating for her employees to be paid."
Pelosi said the White House has been "very silent" about her call to delay the annual State of the Union address, but declined to say what Democrats would do if Trump holds to the Jan. 29 date.
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Pelosi's move drew sharp criticism from Senate Republicans.
"By disinviting POTUS for SOTU, Pelosi erased any pretext for her unwillingness to negotiate an end to the shutdown. It is personal, petty, and vindictive," Senator John Cornyn from Texas Tweeted Thursday.
Some Republican lawmakers say that Pelosi is merely trying to keep Trump from pressing his case for a border wall by delaying the annual high-profile speech.
Pelosi said, "I'm not denying the president a platform," just looking for a better date as soon as the government resumes full operations.
Trump has called for more than $5 billion in taxpayer funding for the wall, while Democrats have offered $1.3 billion in new money for border security, but none specifically for a wall.