US President Donald Trump stormed out of talks with Democratic congressional leaders on Wednesday over funding for a border wall with Mexico and reopening the government, complaining the meeting at the White House was “a total waste of time.”
On the 19th day of a partial government shutdown caused by the dispute over the wall, a short meeting that included Trump, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer ended in acrimony with no sign of a resolution.
Mr Trump has demanded $5.7bn (£4.5bn) to build a steel barrier, which would deliver on a key campaign pledge. But Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, have refused to back the funding.
“Just left a meeting with Chuck and Nancy, a total waste of time,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier?” Trump wrote. “Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye, nothing else works!”
The breakdown in talks could strengthen the possibility that Trump will declare a national emergency to build a wall on the southern border if no deal with Congress can be reached on his request for $5.7 billion for the project.
Earlier on Wednesday, Trump said he had the authority to declare a national emergency that would let him pay for the wall with military funds. Vice President Mike Pence told reporters Trump was still considering that option.
Asked what Trump had gained by walking out, Pence said: “I think the president made his position very clear today: that there will be no deal without a wall.”
Shortly after the White House meeting broke up, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed legislation to end a partial shutdown of the Treasury Department and some other agencies that have been closed since December 22, without money for the wall.
A White House official told the New York Times Mr Trump had said: “I am trying to do the right thing for the country. This isn’t about politics.”
Mr Schumer also said Mr Trump had “slammed the table”, as he left, in a move, that suggests the president is ‘ready to go to war’ with the House of Representatives.
This shutdown, which began on 22 December, has affected 25% of the government and some 800,000 federal employees. About 350,000 of them are furloughed – a kind of temporary lay off, the rest are continuing to work without pay.
Meanwhile, Americans civil servants have not received any payment and have succumbed to borrowing money through the festive period.