Pence’s pickle: How to lead shutdown negotiations for Donald Trump – National


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Progress made, mentioned one.

Not so, mentioned the opposite.

We’ll meet once more, mentioned one.

Waste of time, mentioned the opposite.

READ MORE: No finish to authorities shutdown in sight as Republican-led Senate refuses to vote on Home invoice

Such has been the life recently of Mike Pence, the loyal soldier dispatched by President Donald Trump to guide negotiations over the partial authorities shutdown.

The vp has been one of many administration’s most seen emissaries throughout the shutdown battle, assembly with lawmakers, sitting for interviews and main staff-level talks. However he’s been repeatedly — and really publicly — undermined and contradicted by his boss, who’s demanding billions from Congress to construct a wall alongside the southern border.

Lawmakers and aides in each events say it’s change into more and more clear that, on this White Home, nobody speaks for the president however himself, leaving Pence in an all-but-impossible place as he tries to barter on Trump’s behalf.

“He doesn’t actually have the authority to make a deal,” mentioned Republican Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho, who labored alongside Pence again when Pence was a member of Congress. He mentioned legislators respect the vp even when he’s simply “the messenger.” However he provides: “Trump is the one who’s going to say ‘sure’ or ‘no.’”

WATCH: Authorities shutdown formally longest in U.S. historical past

Even earlier than the shutdown started, Pence was in an ungainly spot within the wall debate — fairly actually. When Trump hosted then-incoming Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic chief Chuck Schumer at a heated Oval Workplace assembly in December that ended with the president saying he’d be “proud” to personal a authorities shutdown, a stone-faced Pence sat by, speechless in his chair, drawing quips on social media evaluating him to a statue or the “Elf on the Shelf.”

Trump later despatched Pence to guide a weekend of funds talks with workers for Republican and Democratic congressional leaders, an effort that Democrats dismissed as little greater than a public-relations effort by the White Home to present the impression it was working to finish the deadlock. Some additionally noticed Pence’s conferences with legislative staffers as unbefitting of his title.

ANALYSIS: Donald Trump hasn’t backed down from border wall calls for — as a result of he can’t

When the primary negotiation session ended that Saturday, Pence tweeted: “Productive dialogue.”

Trump countered an hour later: “Not a lot headway made.”

The subsequent morning, as Pence was set to return to the negotiating desk, Trump once more threw chilly water on the trouble.

“I don’t count on to have something occur at that assembly … nor does the vp,” Trump instructed reporters. “In the end, it’s going to be solved by the principals.”

WATCH: Pelosi says Trump lied about particulars of assembly to finish shutdown

Allies of the vp minimized the importance of the feedback and the White Home denied any friction.

“The vp has been very efficient in speaking on behalf of the administration,” mentioned White Home spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “He has been in lock step with the president all through all the course of.”

Pence, too, rejected the concept that he’d been undermined by the president or had problem constructing belief on Capitol Hill due to Trump’s tendency to alter his thoughts.

READ MORE: Trump says he’ll virtually ‘positively’ declare emergency if border wall calls for not met

He described to reporters a suggestion he delivered to Schumer from the president on the Saturday earlier than Christmas to attempt to lower a deal.

“I didn’t have any impression that entire week that they doubted that it was a reputable supply,” mentioned Pence. He wouldn’t affirm the main points, but it surely was understood to have lowered the president’s demand for $5.7 billion to construct the wall to $2.5 billion.

WATCH: Trump says GOP is ‘extraordinarily united’ over border wall, authorities shutdown

Democrats panned the supply.

Days later, Trump rejected it, too,

“No, not 2.5,” Trump instructed reporters. “We’re asking for five.6. And, you recognize, anyone mentioned 2.5. No.”

With negotiations now at a standstill, Pence has been a frequent customer to the Capitol, targeted on making an attempt to maintain jittery Republicans from breaking with Trump.

READ MORE: U.S. federal employees face 1st payday with out pay amid authorities shutdown

The vp is well-known in Congress, having climbed the ladder because the chief of a conservative faction to function chairman of the Home GOP convention earlier than working for governor of Indiana. That background was among the many causes Trump, who arrived in Washington with no authorities expertise, selected Pence as his working mate.

Marc Lotter, a former Pence spokesman who stays an outdoor adviser, mentioned Pence “typically will get referred to as in if we’re getting near the end line to see if we will usher in a few final votes” or maintain onto those that could also be wavering. He recalled Pence, throughout a well being care battle, “working backwards and forwards, taking concepts and looking for areas the place there may very well be settlement, in search of areas the place there may very well be compromise.”

Whereas Pence lacks the non-public relationships with Schumer and Pelosi that a few of his predecessors had with opposition leaders— notably Vice President Joe Biden’s relationship with Senate Republicans — Lotter mentioned Pence meets repeatedly with members of each events and each chambers, internet hosting lawmakers at his residence for normal dinners.

WATCH: Pence says Democrats ‘unwilling to barter’ to finish shutdown

Marc Brief, the previous White Home director of legislative affairs who beforehand served as Pence’s chief of workers, mentioned the vp’s measured method has been a “complement” to Trump’s very totally different type.

He pointed to efforts throughout the “Obamacare” repeal effort to sway Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, recognized for taking her time to weigh choices. Pence labored patiently to reply her questions.

Certainly, “listener” was a phrase that got here up typically when lawmakers had been requested to explain Pence.

“He’s a great listener,” mentioned Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. “Which is a uncommon high quality round right here.”

READ MORE: FBI brokers affiliation says U.S. authorities shutdown might influence nationwide safety

“He tells us precisely what he thinks,” mentioned Sen. John Kennedy, R-La. “He’s a great listener. He takes our messages again to the president.”

However Simpson questioned whether or not that’s what is required.

Pence, mentioned the Idaho Republican, is “a relayer. We have to have a negotiator … somebody who has the authority to go in and negotiate. After which somebody who has the flexibility to go to Trump and say that is the very best we will do.”

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