Amid shutdown, White House, Democrats, can’t even agree on lunch

A man holds a "end the shutdown build wall" sign as Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, holds a news conference on border security outside of the Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

No House Democrats will attend a White House-organized lunch meeting on Tuesday with President Donald Trump as the partial government shutdown continues, a sign of how dug in both sides are with no deal in sight.

The White House invited a group of members from the chamber’s Blue Dog Coalition for a lunch discussion on the 25th day of the shutdown. 

“Today, the president offered both Democrats and Republicans the chance to meet for lunch at the White House,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said ahead of the 12:30 p.m. meeting., adding, “Unfortunately, no Democrats will attend. The President looks forward to having a working lunch with House Republicans to solve the border crisis and reopen the government.”

Trump will break bread with nine House Republicans: Susan Brooks of Indiana; Rodney Davis of Illinois; Doug Collins of Georgia; John Katko of New York; Brad Wenstrup of Ohio; Jodey Arrington of Texas; Van Taylor of Texas; Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, and Clay Higgins of Louisiana.

After the lunch, the Republicans who spoke with reporters echoed White House talking points. “We do want to get to the table,” Wenstrup said. “I thought I was coming to a bipartisan luncheon. No Democrats showed up.”

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said Tuesday he was not concerned about Trump inviting Democratic rank-and-file to the White House because Democrats are united in their position that the government should be reopened.

“Is anybody surprised that the president is trying to get votes wherever he can get votes?” the Maryland Democrat said during a pen and pad briefing with reporters.

Freshman members of the Blue Dog group on Tuesday morning said it appeared none among their class planned to head to the White House later in the day.

On Monday evening, other Blue Dog members also said they would decline the White House’s invitation.

Blue Dog Coalition Co-chairs Lou Correa of California and Stephanie Murphy of Florida, planned to skip the lunch from the get-go.

“Congressman Correa welcomes the opportunity to talk with the President about border security, as soon as the government is reopened,” a Correa spokesman said.

 The invitation the White House sent out was vague and did not describe the intention of the meeting.

According to a copy obtained by Roll Call, the invitation read, “On behalf of President Trump, we would like to invite your member of Congress to attend lunch at the White House tomorrow, January 15 at 12:30 p.m.”

The invite went on to note the invite was for members only and that the White House would follow up with logistical details if the congressional office provided notice the member could attend.

The invites also appeared to be haphazard as not all Blue Dog Coalition members were invited. Arizona Democratic Rep. Tom O’Halleran, one of the coalition’s co-chairs, did not receive an invite, according to his spokesman.

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.

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