The Oval Office was the perfect trap for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) — or so President Trump thought.
Trump turned the world’s most powerful meeting place into a set for a raucous “Real Housewives Reunion.” Right there, in front of the White House press corps and before a national television audience, he thought he was going to own “Chuck and Nancy” through overtalking and red-faced bluster during their meeting to discuss his border wall and a looming government shutdown if he doesn’t get his way. All that was missing was the de rigueur table toss. Instead, it was Trump who got owned.
First, Pelosi, who is on her way to becoming to the next speaker of the House when the Democrats officially assume the majority next month, got the president to admit that he doesn’t have the votes in the House or the Senate to get funding for his border wall passed.
Pelosi: I think the American people recognize that we must keep government open, that a shutdown is not worth anything, and that you should not have a Trump shutdown. You have the White House —
Trump: Did you say “Trump” — oh, oh.
Pelosi: A “Trump shutdown.” You have the White House —
Trump: I was going to call it a “Pelosi shutdown.”
Pelosi: You have the Senate. You have the House of Representatives. You have the votes. You should pass it right now.
Trump: No, we don’t have the votes, Nancy, because in the Senate, we need 60 votes and we don’t have it.
Pelosi: No, no, but in the House, you could bring it up right now, today.
Trump: Yeah, but I can’t — excuse me. But I can’t get it passed in the House if it’s not going to pass in the Senate. I don’t want to waste time.
Pelosi: Well, the fact is you can get it started that way.
Trump: The House we can get passed very easily, and we do.
Pelosi: Okay, then do it. Then do it.
Trump: But the problem is the Senate, because we need 10 Democrats to vote, and they won’t vote.
This sparring over votes kept going and going and going with Schumer getting into the act.
Pelosi: — you begin, you make your point, you state your case. That’s what the House Republicans could do, if they had the votes. But there are no votes in the House, a majority of votes, for a wall — no matter where you start.
Schumer: That is exactly right. You don’t have the votes in the House.
Trump: If I needed the votes for the wall in the House, I would have them — in one session, it would be done.
Pelosi: Well, then go do it. Go do it.
Then, during more sparring in the Q&A with the press, Schumer got Trump to take 100 percent ownership of a government shutdown if he doesn’t get the money for his border wall.
Schumer: Twenty times you have called for, “I will shut down the government if I don’t get my wall.” None of us have said —
Trump: You want to know something?
Schumer: You’ve said it.
Trump: Okay, you want to put that on my —
Schumer: You said it.
Trump: I’ll take it.
Schumer: Okay, good.
Trump: You know what I’ll say: Yes, if we don’t get what we want, one way or the other — whether it’s through you, through a military, through anything you want to call — I will shut down the government. Absolutely.
Schumer: Okay. Fair enough. We disagree.
Trump: And I am proud — and I’ll tell you what —
Schumer: We disagree.
Trump: 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. So I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it. The last time you shut it down, it didn’t work. I will take the mantle of shutting down.
As The Post reports, the president wants $5 billion for his border wall (that he said Mexico would pay for during the campaign). But the Democrats are offering only $1.3 billion, which is simply an extension of current funding levels in the Department of Homeland Security’s budget. And, as Chuck and Nancy made clear, they are not budging.
Trump tried everything to get one over on Chuck and Nancy. There was racist and debunked bluster about criminal, disease-carrying migrants. There was that unsubstantiated claim of stopping 10 terrorists from entering the United States. The entire spectacle was indeed what Schumer later called a “temper tantrum,” as Vice President Pence sat with the mien of a child who suddenly found himself in the middle of a nasty divorce proceeding.
When Trump started beating his chest over gaining seats in the Senate, Schumer delivered a rhetorical paper cut, the kind you don’t realize until the sting comes moments later. “When the president brags that he won North Dakota and Indiana,” the New York Democrat snarked, “he’s in real trouble.”
And when Trump tried to play Pelosi by saying she might be unable to speak fully because she is still in the process of securing the votes she needs to officially take the speaker’s gavel next year, the former speaker checked him. “Mr. President,” Pelosi said, “please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats who just won a big victory.”
With that, Pelosi showed she meant business and wasn’t going to put up with any of Trump’s foolishness. This is what he has to look forward to for the next two years. Democrats should be happy. The nation should feel relieved.
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