By Peter Nicholas and Kristina Peterson
The White House is working to peel off rank-and-file Democrats from the party leadership to pick up votes for President Trump’s proposed border wall, but is finding little appetite from caucus members to negotiate on their own.
With the partial government shutdown still in place, Mr. Trump has scheduled no meetings this week with the two top Democrats leading the negotiations, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York. Instead, White House officials are making overtures to moderate Democrats, hoping to split the caucus and forge a coalition that will agree to the $5.7 billion in wall construction and border security funds Mr. Trump is demanding as a condition of reopening the government.
No Democrats showed up Tuesday for what was supposed to be a bipartisan luncheon for House members at the White House hosted by Mr. Trump. Some who were invited cited scheduling conflicts, though all face pressure to unite behind Mrs. Pelosi.
“I had a previous lunch already scheduled,” said Rep. Charlie Crist (D., Fla.), explaining why he couldn’t join the president and nine Republican House members who ate lunch in the Roosevelt Room. Mr. Crist said he didn’t believe Mr. Trump was showing proper respect in going over the heads of Democratic leaders.
At a meeting of newly elected House Democrats on Tuesday morning, there was a sense that freshmen Democrats should stick together and not accommodate Mr. Trump, said Rep. Katie Hill (D., Calif.), who attended the meeting.
“The general feeling [was] whoever goes to the White House is setting themselves up to be used as a stunt,” said Ms. Hill, who defeated a GOP incumbent in November.
Mr. Trump’s end-run around the Democratic leadership follows a face-to-face meeting last week that ended badly when the president, after hearing Mrs. Pelosi reject a deal that would fund the wall, walked out.
Looking for a breakthrough, White House officials said they have been tracking statements made by Democrats about the wall and targeting members serving in districts that Mr. Trump won in 2016.
They have invited another group of Democrats to a meeting Wednesday with Mr. Trump, reaching out to the bipartisan, self-styled “Problem Solvers” caucus.
Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the Republican whip, said in an interview: “He’s tried everything to get Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to negotiate and they’ve refused. So he is at least trying to reach out to some of these members who ran saying they would be problem solvers. Here’s a problem to be solved.”
At least four Democrats were invited and are leaning toward going, a person familiar with the matter said: Reps. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Dean Phillips of Minnesota, Abigail Spanberger of Virginia and Vicente Gonzalez of Texas. A spokesperson for Mr. Phillips confirmed he had been invited, but said it was unclear if the meeting would occur.
Rep. Scott Peters (D., Calif.) turned down the invitation. “It is an honor to be asked to the White House, but under the circumstances, we ought to open the government and then talk,” Mr. Peters said.
As the shutdown stretched toward a record 26th day Wednesday, options were narrowing. Both sides appeared dug in.
“He is resolved—we’re going to have border security and border funding,” said Rep. Doug Collins (R., Ga.), who attended the meeting Tuesday.
The costs of the shutdown continued to mount.
The federal judiciary announced that it has done enough belt-tightening to keep up paid operations through Jan. 25. It is the second time the courts have announced they could extend full services and employee pay, but the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts warned the judiciary will run out of existing funds in the near future.
Meantime, administrative agencies made plans for the weeks and months ahead. The Treasury Department said that more than half of Internal Revenue Service employees will work during the coming tax-filing season, calling for 46,052 employees to work, up from the fewer than 10,000 workers since the shutdown started.
The Federal Aviation Administration issued an update of its staffing showing that nearly 3,000 inspectors and other employees in safety-critical jobs had been ordered back to work without pay.
For its part, the Transportation Security Administration said more than 99% of passengers waited less than 30 minutes to get through security Monday amid absences of workers.
With no clear path to ending the shutdown, the White House has been casting about for a way forward.
Last week, Mr. Trump seemed on the brink of declaring a national emergency that would empower him to bypass Congress and tap into funds to build a wall without lawmakers’ approval. But that prospect has dimmed in recent days, with White House aides conceding that such a move would invite a lengthy court challenge.
Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, told reporters outside the White House on Monday that Mr. Trump is “reluctant to use it (a national emergency declaration), because it gets Congress off the hook and it’s a last resort.”
For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html