Vice President Mike Pence stumbled briefly during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday” after host Chris Wallace pressed him on the fact that Republicans could immediately reopen government, if they wanted, without funds for President Donald Trump’s desired border wall.
The 30-day partial government shutdown is the longest in United States history, with 800,000 federal employees either working, or not working, without receiving pay checks.
“You could open the government tomorrow,” Wallace told Pence in the interview, noting that Democrats have already signaled they won’t support a proposal Trump made from the White House Saturday afternoon.
Wallace repeated the statement two more times and then asked: “The House has passed bills to open the government tomorrow. Why don’t you sign them and open the government and then you can negotiate about this?”
Wallace butted in: “No. I mean, isn’t it really that you just want the leverage? And that you figure if you don’t keep the government closed then they’re going to go nowhere?”
Chris Wallace presses Pence: "You could open the government tomorrow" … "Isn't it really that you just want the leverage?" pic.twitter.com/4hubr65EIi
— Matt Shuham (@mattshuham) January 20, 2019
Pence acknowledged the point somewhat, recalling when Trump stormed out of a Jan. 9 negotiation with Democratic congressional leaders after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said she would not support funding Trump’s wall, even if he reopened the government for 30 days.
Republicans and Democrats in the room have told slightly different versions of the meeting. At the time, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that Trump “asked Speaker Pelosi, ‘Will you agree to my wall?’ She said ‘No.’ And he just got up and said, ‘Then we have nothing to discuss.’ and he just walked out.”
Trump tweeted that Pelosi rejected “Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier” within 30 days of the government potentially reopening.
On Sunday, Pence, who was also in the meeting, recalled: “Speaker Pelosi said if we reopen the government and took 30 days to negotiate that she would not give the President funding for border security or a wall.”