New House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, speaks while (from left) House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer listen during a conference after a meeting at the White House. Image Credit: Bloomberg

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Wednesday torched a compromise that his own vice-president floated with Democrats last month to stave off a government funding lapse, saying $2.5 billion (Dh9.17 billion) in border security spending was insufficient as he renewed calls for $5 billion for his border wall amid a shutdown that has stretched into its 12th day.

He also rejected suggestions from Republican senators that negotiators revive a compromise that would twin border-wall money with legislation to shield young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children from deportation and grant them legal work permits.

The comments ahead of a meeting with congressional leaders set back any notion that the shutdown could be nearing a negotiated end. They were a remarkable public rejection of a plan that Vice President Mike Pence broached with Democrats behind closed doors 12 days ago, in the hours before a midnight deadline to avert a shutdown, and which his team has quietly continued to push in the days since.

And they confirmed the concerns of Democratic leaders who had privately questioned whether they could trust senior White House officials to broker any compromise that could then be rejected by a mercurial president who has often shifted his position at the last moment, especially when it comes to immigration.

“No, not $2.5 billion, no — we’re asking for $5.6” billion, Trump said during a Cabinet meeting, hours before he was scheduled to host Republican and Democratic congressional leaders for a border security briefing in the White House Situation Room.

The larger figure refers to the amount Trump has demanded for the wall, which the House endorsed in a vote last month, but which failed to garner even majority support in the Senate, where it would need 60 votes to prevail.

The president’s blustery broadside underscored the difficulty of forging a compromise to end the shutdown impasse between Trump, who has dug in on his signature campaign promise, and newly ascendant Democrats, who have refused to embrace the idea of a wall and are loath to consider a politically tricky agreement with a president who might change course at any moment. Besides Pence, he rejected proposals floated by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Lindsey Graham, R-S. C.

“Could be a long time, or it could be quickly,” Trump said of resolving the shutdown logjam. “It’s too important a subject to walk away from.”

Wednesday’s Situation Room gathering, to be held in the secure room in the White House basement where military operations are tracked and other sensitive discussions unfold, was a conscious effort by Trump and his aides to infuse a sense of national-security crisis into the immigration discussion.

—New York Times News Service