U.S. President Donald Trump said he would be "proud to shut down the government for border security" during a heated meeting with Democratic congressional leaders inside the White House on Tuesday.
Trump's meeting with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was meant to prevent a potential government shutdown later this month, but "has spiraled downwards," Pelosi said.
The sticking point is the funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border that Trump has promised. "One way or another it's going to get built. I'd like not to see a government closing, a shutdown. We will see what happens... But the wall is an important thing to us," Trump said at the beginning of the meeting.
However, the president said later, "I am proud to shut down the government for border security... because people of this country don't want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country."
Trump has asked for at least 5 billion U.S. dollars to be allocated for the construction of the wall, something congressional Democrats have rejected. The president said he would easily get the votes he needed in the House, but he still needed 10 Democratic votes in the Senate.
Pelosi rebutted Trump's claim and said, "There are no votes in the House, the majority votes, for a wall."
Schumer and Pelosi urged Trump to find other solutions to avoid a partial government shutdown after Dec. 21, when funding for a number of federal agencies is set to expire.
"One thing that I think we can agree on is we shouldn't shut down the government over a dispute, and you want to shut it down," Schumer told Trump.
Schumer told reporters outside the White House after the meeting that the bottom line is that if Trump sticks to the 5-billion-dollar wall budget request, "he will get no wall and he will get a shutdown."
"The bottom line is very, very simple. That is, we want border security. We offered him border security. But Americans know that the wall, not paid for by Mexico anymore, is not the way to border security," the congressman said.
He was referring to the 1.3 billion dollars the Democrats agreed to offer for fencing and other border security measures.
The meeting was originally arranged to be held entirely behind closed doors, but Trump invited reporters to enter the Oval Office at the beginning of the meeting.
Pelosi said she didn't think the three of them, meeting for the first time in more than a year, should be having a debate in front of the press.
"We came in here in good faith and we are entering into this kind of a discussion in the public view," said Pelosi, who referred to the possible government shutdown a "Trump shutdown," a term Trump instantly asked her to clarify.