Trump’s offer changes nothing, Democrats concluded. They remained firm in their demand that the president first reopen the government before entertaining further talks on immigration policy. “His ‘major announcement’ was just the exact same racist demand for a wall,” said one House aide, who requested anonymity in order to speak candidly. “Let his legacy be two more years of closed government if he won’t be reasonable.”
But Republicans were nonplussed by Democrats’ swift refusal. According to multiple GOP lawmakers and aides, party leaders are newly confident that blame for the shutdown—which polling thus far has shown sits mostly with the president—will shift to Democratic leaders. The way Republicans see it, the White House is attempting to engage in good-faith negotiations with a party whose members still refuse to come to the table (quite literally, they point out, reiterating that moderate House Democrats all rebuffed Trump’s lunch invitation to discuss the shutdown last week). The onus, they said, is now on Democrats either to advance Trump’s proposal or to counter it with their own—simply rebuking it, they feel, is no longer politically viable.
“The question they never answer is: What is their offer, and when will they come back to the table to deliver it?” Representative Rodney Davis of Illinois, a moderate Republican who engaged in talks with the White House last week, told The Atlantic.
And even conservative lawmakers, who’ve traditionally been a hard sell on legislative deals that include protections for DACA recipients, praised the president for attempting to move negotiations forward. “This is the latest and most significant step yet of POTUS showing his willingness to negotiate and compromise with Democrats on the issue of wall funding,” the House Freedom Caucus member Mark Meadows of North Carolina, a close ally of Trump’s, tweeted. “At this point, if Democrats refuse to come to the table, it will show they are not at all serious about solving this impasse.”
The source familiar with the negotiations told The Atlantic that the White House’s offer began to come together shortly after Pelosi proposed postponing Trump’s State of the Union address, originally scheduled to take place on January 29. It was then that McConnell, the source said, urged Trump to announce a comprehensive offer to end the shutdown—and quickly. “The leader said to POTUS, ‘Start thinking about what you want to do to shake things up.’ Because it was clear to him then that Democrats just weren’t going to move.”
So on Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence and the senior adviser Jared Kushner met with McConnell in his Capitol Hill office to begin ironing out the proposal. The source said the meeting was publicized intentionally, as a way to showcase the White House’s continued efforts to reach a solution in the midst of the standstill.