A government shutdown “could happen” Saturday, President Donald Trump said Wednesday, blaming Democrats’ immigration demands.
“The Democrats are really looking at something that is very dangerous for our country,” Trump told reporters during a Cabinet meeting. “They are looking at shutting down [the federal government]. They want to have illegal immigrants, in many cases people that we don’t want in our country. They want to have illegal immigrants pouring into our country, bring with them crime, tremendous amounts of drugs. We don’t want to have that.”
Democrats have not made any demands related to illegal immigrants pouring into the country. Rather, they seek a deal on so-called Dreamers, young undocumented immigrants already in the country who were brought here as children. Trump decided to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that has provided Dreamers with work permits that shelter them from deportation.
Watch: Trump’s Punch-Back Demeanor Could Threaten Funding Talks
Lawmakers and the White House must agree on something to avert a shutdown at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, when the existing stopgap spending measure expires. The ball appears to be in House Republicans’ court, as that conference’s members haggle over whether to send something to the Senate that would last through Dec. 22 or closer to New Year’s Eve.
The White House has not taken a position on the length of the coming continuing resolution. After the president initially signaled a willingness to consider addressing the Obama administration’s DACA immigration program as part of the spending measure, Trump and his top aides in recent weeks walked back that position. Republican lawmakers have followed suit, but at least a handful of Democratic votes will be necessary in the Senate, giving that party ample leverage in the spending negotiations.
A key Democrat immediately slammed Trump’s threat.
“The president’s continuing threats to shut down the government, and Republican leadership’s game-playing on the course forward, raise serious doubts about whether they are engaging in a good faith effort to develop a responsible funding package,” said Matt Dennis, spokesman for Rep. Nita M. Lowey of New York, the House Appropriations Committee’s top Democrat.
Trump is slated to huddle Thursday at the White House with Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer about averting a shutdown. Those five had a meeting on the books last week, but Trump, with a single tweet blasting Pelosi and Schumer, set in motion dominoes that led to the Democratic leaders skipping the session.
“Absolutely. We showed the president, no games,” Schumer said Tuesday. “This is serious stuff. We think he learned and he invited us back this week.”
Kellie Mejdrich and Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.