President Trump called out Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi for partisan obstructionism by skipping a high-profile meeting on the budget yesterday. Instead of rearranging the seating, the President decided he could best make his point by “empty-chairing” the Democrat leaders and leaving their name placards in place.
The meeting was set to be between the President and the top party leaders to discuss how best to solve the budget deadline and avoid a government shutdown, yet Pelosi and Schumer made the choice to show their disdain by not attending.
Ostensibly, the move by the Democrat leaders was in response to a Tweet released by the President in which he stated that:
“Meeting with ‘Chuck and Nancy’ today about keeping government open and working. Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked, are weak on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes. I don’t see a deal!”
This highlights the fact that the Democrats have a set agenda within which they are willing to work; most notably is their call for some kind of amnesty for DACA recipients. “Chuck and Nancy” responded with their own statement suggesting that there would be no point in attendance if the President was not willing to make a deal on issues they “hold dear”:
“Given that the President doesn’t see a deal between Democrats the White House, we believe the best path forward is to continue negotiating with our Republican counterparts in Congress instead.”
The sad fact is that they have been unwilling to even work with their Republican counterparts in Congress. They have become merely protestors instead of legislators and lawmakers. A protest rally was planned to take place at the same time as the bipartisan meeting, organized though Pelosi and Schumer, yet the pair failed to turn up for that event, too.
After the President had used the empty chairing to humiliate the leaders, Pelosi began her own Twitter war with President Trump. She posted:
“.@realDonaldTrump now knows that his verbal abuse will no longer be tolerated. His empty chair photo opp showed he’s more interested in stunts than in addressing the needs of the American people. Poor Ryan and McConnell relegated to props. Sad!”
Many commentators are pointing out the mild hypocrisy in this statement as Pelosi and Schumer’s absence was, in fact, them being more interested in “stunts” than “addressing the needs of the American people.”
The signals for this were already in play as Chuck Schumer had said on the Senate floor that “If the President, who already earlier this year said ‘Our country needs a good shutdown’ … isn’t interested in addressing the end-of-the-year agenda, we’ll work with those who are interested in funding the government,” suggesting that the President was not interested in a bi-partisan deal.
Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan released a joint statement in response to the Democrat snub, saying:
“We have important work to do, and Democratic leaders have continually found new excuses not to meet with the administration to discuss these issues, if Democrats want to reach an agreement, they will be there.”
Voters are looking on and wondering why their elected representatives are engaged in petty games instead of putting forward the proposals that they campaigned on. Despite Republican control of the House, Senate and White House internal party differences have hindered legislative progress.
Democrats, seeing the Republican divisions, appear to be content to be the “Party of No.” Opting instead to “poke the bear” and exacerbate Republican divisions. Apparently Democrats are betting that by obstruction and division, Republican legislative failures bode well for Democrats in upcoming midterm elections.
Both parties have employed this obstructionist tactics in the past when in the minority. However, public opinion has drastically changed in relation to such partisan politics. This political game of chicken puts necessary legislation and government funding in serious jeopardy.
Mark is a political writer and journalist who has worked on campaigns for Brexit.