Before Donald Trump could propose a deal to end the government shutdown, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, rejected it.In an address to the nation on Saturday afternoon, the president was due to ask for funding for his border wall in exchange for extending protections for young undocumented migrants brought to the US as children and individuals from some Central American and African nations.
In a statement issued before Trump’s address, Pelosi said that was not good enough, partly because the offer was not for permanent action.
“Democrats were hopeful that the president was finally willing to reopen government and proceed with a much-need discussion to protect the border,” she said.
“Unfortunately, initial reports make clear that his proposal is a compilation of several previously rejected initiatives, each of which is unacceptable and in total, do not represent a good faith effort to restore certainty to people’s lives. It is unlikely that any one of these provisions alone would pass the House, and taken together, they are a non-starter.”
The president’s offer was to be his first to Democratic leaders in Congress since the federal government partially closed in December. Roughly 800,000 federal workers remain without pay.A Trump administration official confirmed to the Guardian that the president would not back down from his demand for $5.7bn in funding for the construction of a wall on the US-Mexico border.
But he would put forward concessions that include temporary protections for Dreamers and allowing those with “Temporary Protected Status” to remain in the country.
The fate of both programs has been uncertain since Trump first rescinded protections for Dreamers, and then moved to terminate the status of hundreds of thousands of TPS holders from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan.
As he left Washington for Dover airbase in Delaware earlier in the day, Trump did not divulge details of his plans, merely repeating familiar talking points about “caravans” of migrants which “Mexico seems unfortunately powerless to stop” and the supposed efficacy of border walls.
He repeated another White House talking point: that Pelosi is “being controlled by the radical left, which is a problem”.
Before Pelosi issued her statement, a senior House Democratic aide said Democrats were not consulted on Trump’s reported proposal.
“Similar inadequate offers from the administration were already rejected by Democrats,” the aide said. “The president must agree to reopen government and join Democrats to negotiate on border security measures that work, and not an expensive and ineffective wall that the president promised Mexico would pay for.”
The shutdown is the longest in US history. Many of the nearly 800,000 federal workers either furloughed or forced to work without pay have said they are struggling to pay the cost of everyday living. Hundreds of thousands of contractors are also affected. Key government services including air travel security and nutritional assistance are inoperative or facing mounting problems.
Democrats, backed by most public polling, have repeated that they will not give Trump wall funding and will not negotiate until the government reopens. Trump’s offer on Saturday was described by various media outlets citing White House sources as an attempt to restart talks.
According to multiple reports, Democrats do have an offer: hundreds of millions of dollars for new immigration judges and improvements to ports of entry but nothing for the wall, as House aide described it to the Associated Press. The aide said about $1bn of such spending would be added to bills to be voted on next week.
Democrats have passed bills to reopen government but Senate Republicanswill not pass them because Trump will not sign them. Democrats have been seeking to increase pressure on moderates or those facing re-election in swing states.
Amid revelation and counter-revelation in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, the mood in Washington has grown febrile.
Pelosi suggested Trump postpone his annual trip to Congress to deliver the State of the Union address. Trump retaliated by stopping Pelosi using military transport for a visit to troops in Afghanistan.
Adam Schiff of California, the influential Democratic chair of the House intelligence committee, denounced Trump for revealing Pelosi’s closely held travel plan, calling it “completely and utterly irresponsible in every way”.
Even the South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump friend and ally, criticized the president, saying: “One sophomoric response does not deserve another.” Calling Pelosi’s State of the Union gambit “very irresponsible and blatantly political”, he said Trump’s reaction was “also inappropriate”.
None of that solves the government shutdown. Nor did Trump’s first address on the subject, on 8 January.
Trump campaigned on a promise to build the wall, and to have Mexico pay for it. He claims that will still happen due to a new trade deal. That claim is widely contested.
He has recently threatened to declare a national emergency, which would nominally allow the president to bypass Congress and secure funds for the wall from military, disaster preparedness, the Department of Justice and other budgets.
While few would argue that a humanitarian crisis exists at the US-Mexico border, as the demand for people who want to enter the US and the Trump administration’s hardline response overwhelm resources, critics say the president has dramatically exaggerated the security risks, particularly with talk about groups of migrants who gather in so-called caravans and leave Central America in mostly fruitless attempts to gain asylum in the US.
Such critics argue a wall would do little to solve existing problems. Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Trump indicated his unwillingness to budge when he said: “Everybody knows that walls work. You look at different places, they put up a wall, no problems.”