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White House meeting ends with no progress on shutdown or border wall

A meeting Wednesday afternoon between White House officials and congressional leaders has wrapped up with no progress made on border security funding or reopening the federal government.

Democrats to proceed with plans to hold votes Thursday as they formally take control of House

U.S. President Donald Trump attends a cabinet meeting on Day 12 of the partial U.S. government shutdown ahead of a meeting with congressional leaders. (Jim Young/Reuters)

A meeting Wednesday afternoon between White House officials and congressional leaders has wrapped up with no progress made on border security funding or reopening the federal government. 

U.S. President Donald Trump has asked congressional leaders to return to the White House on Friday for more talks aimed at ending the partial government shutdown, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said after the meeting.

"The president asked us to come back on Friday after the leadership races" for the new session of Congress, McCarthy said. "We know that we have a challenge along the border. We want to solve that issue. We want to make sure we open this government up. And I think at the end of the day, the president, listening to him, he wants to solve this as well," he said.

He added that a scheduled briefing on the border by senior Department of Homeland Security officials wasn't even completed. 

Before the meeting, Trump told reporters the purpose of the briefing was "to tell Chuck [Schumer] and Nancy [Pelosi] and some others from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and border patrol and also from local law enforcement how bad it is, how dangerous it is and why we need a wall."

House Democratic leader and Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer speak to the media after meeting with President Donald Trump Wednesday. (Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

Emerging from the almost 90-minute gathering, Pelosi, who is expected to take over as House Speaker, said Democrats would take action to "open up government" tomorrow by bringing to the floor "legislation based on actions taken by the Republican Senate."

"We have given the Republicans the chance to take yes for an answer," Pelosi said. 

The administration has so far rejected the plan, which does not include funding to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, said during the meeting Trump could not provide a "good answer" for opposing the bills. He added that Trump and Republicans "are now feeling the heat."

Trump on Tuesday invited congressional leaders to a White House briefing on border security as the partial government shutdown dragged on over funding for a border wall. He tweeted: "Let's make a deal?"

Trump talked in December about border security with Schumer and Pelosi. He said at the time he would be proud to shut down the government over the issue. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

By midday Wednesday, Trump said he was open to working on a path to legal status for so-called "Dreamers," young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, which has been a key demand by Democrats in negotiations to end previous government shutdowns. 

Whether the Republican-led Senate, under Mitch McConnell, would consider the Democratic bills — or if Trump would sign either into law — was unclear. McConnell spokesperson Donald Stewart said Senate Republicans would not take action without Trump's backing.

"It's simple: The Senate is not going to send something to the president that he won't sign," Stewart said.

Putting on pressure

Even if only symbolic, the passage of the bills in the House would put fresh pressure on the president. At the same time, administration officials said Trump was in no rush for a resolution to the impasse.

Trump believes he has public opinion on his side and, at very least, his base of supporters behind him, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

White House officials, including the departing chief of staff, had indicated that Trump's signature campaign pledge to build the wall would not be fulfilled as advertised. John Kelly told the Los Angeles Times in an interview published Sunday that Trump abandoned the notion of "a solid concrete wall early on in the administration."

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham urged the president to try and use this fight to tackle even more than the border issues. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

The Democratic package to end the shutdown would include one bill to temporarily fund the Department of Homeland Security at current levels — with $1.3 billion for border security, far less than the $5 billion Trump has said he wants for the wall — through Feb. 8 as talks continued.

It would also include another measure to fund the departments of Agriculture, Interior, Housing and Urban Development and others closed by the partial shutdown. It would provide money through the remainder of the fiscal year, to Sept. 30.

Democrats under Pelosi were all but certain to swiftly approve the package in two separate votes Thursday. They would take place after the election of a new House Speaker, a contest Pelosi was expected to win as leader of the new House majority.

Plan called 'non-starter'

Responding to the Democratic plan, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders late Tuesday night called it a "non-starter" and said it won't reopen the government "because it fails to secure the border and puts the needs of other countries above the needs of our own citizens."

Republican senators left for the holidays refusing to vote on any bills until all sides, including Trump, were in agreement. The lawmakers were frustrated that Trump had dismissed their earlier legislation.

The president has not said he would veto the Democratic legislation, if the bills were to land on his desk. But a prolonged crisis could hobble House Democrats' ability to proceed with their agenda, which includes investigations of the president and oversight of his administration, including Russian interference in the 2016 election.

At least one Republican, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, encouraged Trump to use the budget impasse as an opportunity to address issues beyond the border wall. Graham said Trump was "open-minded" about his proposal.

The partial government shutdown began Dec. 22 after Trump bowed to conservative demands that he fight to make good on his vow and secure funding for the wall before Republicans lost control of the House. Democrats have remained committed to blocking any funding for the wall.

With files from CBC News and Reuters

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