Democratic lawmakers rejected President Trump’s invitation to lunch for shutdown negotiations at the White House Tuesday, as the president seeks to break apart unity behind Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s opposition to border wall funding.
“Today, the president offered both Democrats and Republicans the chance to meet for lunch at the White House. Unfortunately, no Democrats will attend,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Instead, Mr. Trump will host nine Republican House lawmakers for talks on how to end the 25-day-old shutdown.
“The [resident looks forward to having a working lunch with House Republicans to solve the border crisis and reopen the government,” Mrs. Sanders said. “It’s time for the Democrats to come to the table and make a deal.”
Despite the attempt at an end-run around Mrs. Pelosi, the speaker gave her blessing for Democrats to attend the lunch, a top House Democrat said.
“Is he inviting people to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to really try to solve this problem or to create a photo op to project a false sense of bipartisanship?” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, who said the Democrats were cautioned against being used as political pawns.
Democrats say the most bipartisan answer on the table right now is to approve bills to reopen the government and postpone the border wall fight until later.
The White House has been targeting freshmen House Democrats elected in districts that backed Mr. Trump in 2016, some of whom have spoken in favor of border barriers.
Mr. Trump recently said he though Democrat unity was beginning to “break” on the border fence issue.
A Pelosi aide said the speaker welcomed the opportunity for members to see what she had been dealing with during the shutdown standoff.
Mr. Trump walked out of his last meeting with Mrs. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, saying they refused to negotiate any funding for a border fence or wall even if he agreed to end the shutdown.
The White House said Democratic leaders are stonewalling on a solution.
“As Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi refuse to negotiate, President Donald J. Trump and his team are working hard to find solutions to solve the humanitarian and national security crisis at the border and reopen the government,” Mrs. Sanders said. “The president has a proposal on the table that includes additional technology at ports of entry, allows minors from Central America to seek asylum in their home country, and physical barriers between ports of entry made of steel instead of concrete.”
The Republicans attending the lunch are Reps. Susan Brooks of Indiana, Rodney Davis of Illinois, Doug Collins of Georgia, John Katko of New York, Brad Wenstrup of Ohio, Jodey Arrington and Van Taylor of Texas, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, and Clay Higgins of Louisiana.
— Staff writer Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.
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