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Trump, Dem. Congressional Leaders Clash over Border Wall in Oval Office

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Capitol Hill, November 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Tempers flared between President Trump and Democratic leaders during an Oval Office meeting Tuesday over funding for a wall at the southern border.

Large portions of the government are headed for a shutdown on December 21 if Congress fails to pass legislation to keep funding flowing. A particular sticking point for both sides is the $5 billion that Trump has requested for a wall, as opposed to the $1.6 billion for improving existing fencing along the border that Democrats have agreed to.

“Tremendous amounts of wall have already been built,” Trump told reporters at the beginning of the meeting. “We don’t talk about that, but we might as well start.”

The president said he “would like not to see” a shutdown, but promised “the wall will get built.”

Sitting with House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, the president invited Pelosi to say a few words after he addressed reporters.

“You have the votes,” Pelosi told Trump, adding that a “Trump shutdown” is “not worth anything.”

“No, we don’t have the votes, Nancy, because in the Senate we need 60 votes,” Trump shot back. “Excuse me. I can’t get it passed in the House if it’s not going to pass in the Senate. I don’t want to waste time.”

“The fact is, you can get it started that way,” Pelosi said.

The exchange about votes went on for another few minutes, with Pelosi saying a debate in front of the press was unnecessary and that they should have a “conversation in a prayerful way.”

“There are no votes in the House, a majority of votes, for a wall,” Pelosi said.

“It doesn’t help for me to take a vote in the House where I will win easily with the Republicans,” Trump said, “because I’m not going to get the vote of the Senate.”

“You will not win,” Pelosi told him.

“We caught ten terrorists over the last very short period of time,” the president responded. “We need border security, of which the wall is just a piece.”

At this point Schumer chimed in, saying that lawmakers “have solutions that will pass the House and Senate right now and will not shut down the government.”

“The last time you shut it down you got killed,” Trump fired back. “And if it’s not good border security, I won’t take it.”

“If it’s good then, it’s good now,” Schumer shot back, adding that a wall is “wasteful and doesn’t solve the problem.”

“It totally solves the problem,” Trump said.

Pelosi said they had “taken this conversation to a place that is devoid, frankly, of fact.”

“I’ll take it,” Trump said as Schumer accused him of wanting to shut down the government. “I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck.”

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