In his latest attempt to deliver on his promise to shut down the government if he didn't get money to spend on his deeply unpopular border wall, President Donald Trump refused Thursday to approve the spending bill which passed in the Senate.
The news came to light when outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was forced to postpone his final press conference, after Trump told Republican leaders that he would not sign the bill if it crossed his desk because the Senate version, which was passed unanimously on Wednesday, did not include $5 billion for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Ryan declared the meeting "productive" after emerging, but admitted that the president's red line was holding up progress. The stopgap bill was intended to keep the government running through February 8. Without the spending bill entering into force, funding for seven agencies and nine departments which make up a quarter of the government could be in jeopardy.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) noted that Trump's refusal to sign the bill also confirms what progressives and other critics knew about the president's priorities long before he took office in 2017—crystallizing his lack of support for working Americans including the 800,000 federal employees who face potential furloughs if the government partially shuts down.
Trump, the “great friend” of American workers, is now prepared to ignore the unanimous U.S. Senate bill to fund the government.
While Trump heads off to his exclusive golf club in Florida, his Christmas gift to some 800,000 federal employees is to deny them their paychecks. https://t.co/cuMRN3C3po
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) December 20, 2018
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and presumptive incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) stood firmly against the president's demands, with Schumer likening Trump's stance to a toddler's tantrum.
"Trump's allies in the House can pound their fists on the table all they want but it's not going to get a wall. They can, having caught the Trump temper tantrum fever, jump up and down, yell and scream. It's not going to get a wall," said Schumer.
The American people know the president’s wall is ineffective, expensive, and only serves as a political bone to his most conservative supporters—certainly not worth a government shutdown.
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— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) December 20, 2018
As Trump faced a Democratic Party intent on denying him one of his signature campaign promises, the White House appeared to suggest that the border wall proposal had been dialed back, with Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying Thursday that Trump "does not want to go further without border security, which includes steel slats or a wall" echoing a tweet he had posted earlier in the day.
I love how Trump uses "steel slats" in one tweet, and now everyone in the White House has to pretend like "steel slats" represents some sort of coherent approach to border policy.
— Josh Chafetz (@joshchafetz) December 20, 2018
"This is not merely my campaign promise, this is the promise every lawmaker made," Trump said after his meeting with the Republicans. "It is the solemn promise to protect the United States of America and it is our sacred obligation."
Pelosi said Thursday that Democrats will work to keep the government open, but called the wall a "non-starter."
"We'll see what they come up with, in terms of disaster assistance," she told reporters. "But in terms of wall funding, that's a non-starter. I think they know that."
"We're right in the middle of a sort of meltdown on the part of the Republicans," she added.
The spending bill must be finalized by midnight Friday to keep parts of the government from shutting down.