Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, talks with reporters as he walks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019.

Susan Walsh/AP Photo

Signs of GOP unease over shutdown ahead of White House talks

January 04, 2019 - 10:32 am
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By Matthew Daly, Catherine Lucey and Jill Colvin, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Amid signs of Republican unease over the prolonged partial government shutdown, congressional leaders planned to meet Friday with President Donald Trump after House Democrats muscled through legislation to fund the government but not his border wall.

The impasse over paying for Trump's proposed wall at the U.S.-Mexico border extended the shutdown into a 14th day, but some GOP senators up for re-election in 2020 voiced discomfort. Several are from states where voter views on Trump are mixed.

Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado said Congress should pass bipartisan bills to fund government "while we continue to fight for more border security money." And Republican Susan Collins of Maine said she saw "no reason why the bills that are ready to go and on which we've achieved an agreement should be held hostage to this debate over border security."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the measures are non-starters on his side of the Capitol without the president's support.

RELATED: Newly empowered House Dems pass funding plan without wall

Adding to the unease are economic jitters as analysts warn of the risks of closures that are disrupting government operations across multiple departments and agencies at a time of other uncertainties in the stock market and foreign trade.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump and Senate Republicans should "take yes for an answer" and pass the legislation — without money for the wall — that the Senate approved on a voice vote last month.

"We're not doing a wall. Does anyone have any doubt that we're not doing a wall?" Pelosi said Thursday night.

But the White House line was still firm. Vice President Mike Pence told Fox News late Thursday, "Bottom line, if there's no wall, there's no deal."

RELATED: House Democrats urge sweeping reforms to boost voting access

In their first votes of the new Congress, House Democrats approved bills Thursday night to re-open government at previously agreed upon levels. Several Republicans crossed over to join them.

Friday's White House meeting with Trump includes eight leaders — the top two Democrats and Republicans of both chambers. A session earlier in the week produced finger pointing with no breakthroughs.

Republicans said the new round of talks might be more productive now that Pelosi is speaker. But Democrats said the problem isn't with them but with Trump, who once boasted of the shutdown but now must try to explain blocking the effort to re-open government with bills Republicans had earlier approved.

Trump on Wednesday told the leaders he would "look foolish" for conceding without money for the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

On Thursday, Trump made a surprise appearance at the White House briefing room, pledging to keep up the fight for his signature campaign promise.

"You can call it a barrier, you can call it whatever you want," Trump said. "But essentially we need protection in our country. We're going to make it good. The people of our country want it."

Trump is demanding billions of dollars to build his wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Asked if she would give Trump $1 for a wall to reopen the government, Pelosi said: "One dollar? Yeah, one dollar. The fact is a wall is an immorality. It's not who we are as a nation."

Polls show a majority of Americans oppose the border wall, although Republicans strongly support it.

White House and Department of Homeland Security officials have spent recent days trying to make both a public and private case that the situation at the border has reached a crisis point that demands more money than Democrats have offered.

Trump tweeted an ominous video Thursday with images of what appeared to be migrants trying to rush the border and clashing with law enforcement, beneath the words "crisis at the border," ''drugs" and "crime." The video concludes with footage of Trump at the border along with audio from one of his rallies in which he vows to build his promised border wall and the crowd chants "Build the wall!"

Trump has said the partial shutdown, which began Dec. 22, will last "as long as it takes" to get the funding he wants.

The White House said he made calls Thursday to the family of Cpl. Ronil Singh, the Newman, California, police officer shot to death during a Dec. 26 traffic stop. The suspected shooter is a Mexican man accused of living in the U.S. illegally. Republicans have seized on the case to call for tougher border security.

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Associated Press writers Eileen Putman, Lisa Mascaro, Laurie Kellman, Kevin Freking, Alan Fram and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed.

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