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Trump storms out of talks on shutdown, bemoans ‘total waste of time’

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Govt shutdown rolls on after US President storms out of talks with Democrats

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump stormed out of talks with Democratic congressional leaders on Wednesday over funding for a border wall with Mexico and reopening the government, complaining the meeting at the White House was "a total waste of time".

On the 19th day of a partial government shutdown caused by the dispute over the wall, a short meeting that included Mr Trump, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer ended in acrimony with no sign of a resolution.

"Just left a meeting with Chuck and Nancy, a total waste of time," Trump wrote on Twitter. "I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier?" Trump wrote.

"Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye, nothing else works!"

Democrats accused Mr Trump of throwing a "temper tantrum" and said the meeting broke down when they refused to commit to funding his proposed southern border wall.

Mr Trump's desire for a wall between the US and Mexico was a central theme of his 2016 presidential campaign.

"It was a petulant president of the United States," Ms Pelosi told reporters when she returned to the Capitol.

"A person who would say: 'I'll keep government shut down for weeks, months or years unless I get my way'. That's just not the way democracy works, and so it's very sad."

The breakdown in talks could strengthen the possibility that Mr Trump will declare a national emergency to build a wall on the southern border if no deal with Congress can be reached on his request for US$5.7 billion (S$7.7 billion) for the project.

Shortly after the White House meeting broke up, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed legislation to end a partial shutdown of the Treasury Department and some other agencies that have been closed since Dec 22, without money for the wall.

But there was no indication that the Senate, controlled by Mr Trump's fellow Republicans, would allow a vote on the bill.

Democrats are eager to force Republicans to choose between funding the Treasury's Internal Revenue Service - at a time when it should be gearing up to issue tax refunds - and voting to keep it partially shuttered.

In a countermove, the Trump administration said that even without a new shot of funding, the IRS would somehow make sure those refund checks get sent.

The political maneuvering comes amid a rising public backlash over the suspension of government activities that has resulted in the layoffs of hundreds of thousands of federal workers.

Other "essential" employees are being required to report to work, but without pay for the time being.

The National Treasury Employees Union filed a suit on Wednesday challenging the administration's authority to force federal employees to work without pay. - REUTERS