WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump declared Friday he could keep parts of the government shut down for "months or even years" as he and Democratic leaders failed in a second closed-door meeting to resolve his demand for billions of dollars for a border wall with Mexico. They did agree to a new round of weekend talks between staff members and White House officials.
Trump met in the White House Situation Room with congressional leaders from both parties as the shutdown hit the two-week mark amid an impasse over his wall demands. Democrats emerged from the roughly two-hour meeting, which both sides said was contentious at times, to report little if any progress.
The standoff also prompted economic jitters and anxiety among some in Trump's own party. But he appeared in the Rose Garden to frame the upcoming weekend talks as progress, while making clear he would not reopen the government.
"We won't be opening until it's solved," Trump said. "I don't call it a shutdown. I call it doing what you have to do for the benefit and the safety of our country."
Trump said he could declare a national emergency to build the wall without congressional approval, but would first try a "negotiated process." Trump previously described the situation at the border as a "national emergency" before he dispatched active-duty troops in what critics described as a pre-election stunt.
Trump also said the hundreds of thousands of federal workers who are furloughed or working without pay would want him to "keep going" and fight for border security. Asked how people would manage without a financial safety net, he declared: "The safety net is going to be having a strong border because we're going to be safe."
Democrats, on the other hand, spoke of families unable to pay bills and called on Trump to reopen the government while negotiations continue. Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, "It's very hard to see how progress will be made unless they open up the government."
Friday's White House meeting with Trump included eight congressional leaders — the top two Democrats and Republicans of both chambers. People familiar with the session described Trump as holding forth at length on a range of subjects but said he made clear he was firm in his demand for $5.6 billion in wall funding and in rejecting the Democrats' request to reopen the government.
Trump confirmed that he privately told Democrats the shutdown could drag on for months or years, though he said he hoped it wouldn't last that long. Said Trump: "I hope it doesn't go on even beyond a few more days."
House Democrats muscled through legislation Thursday night to fund the government but not Trump's proposed wall. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said those measures are non-starters on his side of the Capitol without the president's support.
A variety of strategies are being floated inside and outside the White House, among them trading wall funding for a deal on immigrants brought to the country as young people and now here illegally, or using a national emergency declaration to build the wall. While Trump made clear during his press conference that talk on DACA (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program) would have to wait and that he was trying to negotiate with Congress on the wall, the conversations underscored rising Republican anxiety about just how to exit the shutdown.
Seeking to ease concerns, the White House sought to frame the weekend talks as a step forward, as did McConnell, who described plans for a "working group," though people familiar with the meeting said that phrase never actually came up. Trump designated Vice President Mike Pence, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and adviser Jared Kushner to work with a congressional delegation over the weekend. That meeting is set for 11 a.m. today, the White House said.
Some GOP senators up for re-election in 2020 voiced discomfort with the shutdown in recent days, including Cory Gardner of Colorado and Susan Collins of Maine, putting additional pressure on Republicans.
But with staff level talks there is always an open question of whether Trump's aides are fully empowered to negotiate for the president. Earlier this week, he rejected his own administration's offer to accept $2.5 billion for the wall. That proposal was made when Pence and other top officials met at the start of the shutdown with Schumer.
During his free-wheeling session with reporters, Trump also wrongly claimed that he'd never called for the wall to be concrete. Trump did so repeatedly during his campaign, describing a wall of pre-cast concrete sections that would be higher than the walls of many of his rally venues. He repeated that promise just days ago.
"An all concrete Wall was NEVER ABANDONED, as has been reported by the media. Some areas will be all concrete but the experts at Border Patrol prefer a Wall that is see through (thereby making it possible to see what is happening on both sides). Makes sense to me!," he tweeted on Dec. 31.
Trump was joined by Pence in the Rose Garden, as well as House Republican leaders Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise. McConnell, who went back to the Capitol, unaware of the press conference, said it was encouraging that the White House officials and the congressional contingent would meet over the weekend "to see if they can reach an agreement and then punt it back to us for final sign off."
Schumer said that if McConnell and Senate Republicans stay on the sidelines, "Trump can keep the government shut down for a long time."
"The president needs an intervention," Schumer said. "And Senate Republicans are just the right ones to intervene."
SIOUX CITY -- The sun sets near 5 p.m., and the number of daylight hours is at one of the lowest points of the year.
Siouxland is entering the full brunt of winter, when snow and cold weather drives and keeps most residents indoors. Since the days aren't remotely filled with the sunlight, some people wrestle with problems of seasonal joylessness.
This is the period Heather Satterwhite burrows into her Sioux City home on most weeknight evenings. Once she's home in the late afternoon from work, Satterwhite doesn't like to leave, as she works through the sometimes severe blues known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.
She's struggled with the winter blues for a few decades, even before she knew seasonal affective disorder was a likely culprit.
""Waking up to it being dark and getting off work when it’s dark is extremely depressing. I don’t want to go anywhere. I don’t have any energy. Nothing seems to bring me happiness...I’m pretty sure I’ve had this as long as I can remember," Satterwhite said.
While she likes that the days get longer by about two minutes per day after Dec. 21 solstice, Satterwhite also knows there are a lot of shut-in days with winter weather ahead.
"It seems like there are a lot of people that don’t love it when it gets dark so early. Whether or not they feel anxiety or sadness, I don’t know. I’m only aware of a few people that actually are emotionally and physically affected by it, such as myself," she said.
John Donovan, of Sioux City, said the short days lead to doleful feelings.
"I am very cyclical with the sun. When the sun sets, I shut down," Donovan said.
Dr. Steven Joyce, a physician at Mercy Medical Center-Sioux City, said about five percent of people in the U.S. suffer from seasonal affective disorder, also commonly called the winter blues.
Joyce said medical professionals have been aware of SA, a form of depression, associated with the changes in seasons, for a few decades. It can leave a person feeling fatigued and irritable, wreak havoc on sleep cycles and lead to an increase or decrease in appetite.
"SAD mimics depression in many ways, with sadness, feeling down or blue or depressed, with a lack of motivation or doing enjoyable things, sleeping more," Joyce said.
Once it starts getting dark by 7:30 p.m. in October, or a few weeks before clocks move back by an hour due to Daylight Savings Time, that's when Satterwhite "really starts to feel the anxiety and sadness."
Satterwhite said she needs to be watchful, because depression runs in her family. Her father suffered from depression and committed suicide in 2001.
During the winter, Satterwhite eats less, ups usage of an anxiety medication and sees a counselor more frequently. She's grateful for her high school son, Cole, and boyfriend, Kevin Van Sickle, to help her get through some situations.
"Internally, I don't feel happy. I have to continually tell myself that this is only temporary. I tell everyone I’m in hibernation mode. I shut the shades as soon as I get home from work. For example, I notice when I let the dog outside at night that I will just barely open the door to let him out," she said.
There are ways to combat SAD, Mercy's Joyce said.
"Get as much sunlight as possible. Sometimes people use light therapy to help this. Get out of the house, do things with people you'd usually enjoy," he said.
Satterwhite is pleased to have seen the price come down on a portable UV light for her home that she believes can improve her mood. The one she's investigating uses filtered UV light to stimulate the production of brain chemicals like serotonin, which is linked to mood and sleep. The manufacturer recommends being near the light from 10 to 60 minutes per day.
"I have always wanted one of these lights. Glad to see they have cheaper ones out there now," Satterwhite said.
Donovan also uses a UV light to combat his seasonal affective disorder.
"I don't seem to need it on the front side of the equinox, but by January I do," Donovan said.
Donovan likes the exercise of bicycling, and laments that outside coping mechanism is mostly gone in the winter. He also walks the family dogs less.
Donovan, a transplant to Iowa, said the three best winters for him came with the infusion of joy he got in mid-fall, to delay the onset of SAD. Those came in the years of 2010, 2012 and 2014, when he rode the bubble of fun from the San Francisco Giants winning World Series titles.
As with every winter, Satterwhite keeps her mind on the better months down the line.
"I do not like the snow or cold at all. I don’t see any point in it...I find myself constantly daydreaming about the summer. I’m counting down the days till we spring forward. My favorite time of year is during the summer solstice in June," she said.
SIOUX CITY -- In a sharp turnabout from his past stance, Rep. Steve King committed Friday to holding at least one town hall meeting in each of the 39 counties in Iowa's 4th District.
In a news release, King released 39 dates, but not locations, for a series of public meetings that will begin on Jan. 24 and end on Dec. 14. His office said details about each town hall will be released at a later time and distributed via news releases on King's congressional website.
In Friday's news release, King invited members of the public and the news media to "Save the Date" to discuss various issues.
“Town hall meetings are an opportunity for members of the public to express their concerns to me, and for me to deliver my constituents an overview of the work I am doing in Washington on their behalf," the Kiron Republican said in a statement. "During my time in Congress, I have visited all 382 towns in the 4th District, and I look forward to holding a town hall meeting in all 39 of our district’s counties this year," King said.
While members of Congress routinely schedule public meetings in their district and state on weekends and recesses, King has largely avoided holding such forums in recent years. The outspoken conservative told the Journal that outside groups had started paying protesters to disrupt his town halls. He expressed concerns the protests could turn violent, citing the June 2017 shooting of a Republican lawmaker at a congressional softball practice in suburban Virginia.
King said he had found other ways to talk with voters in the district.
"Just to put it bluntly, I do tele-town hall meetings, where we will have thousands of people on the phone," King told the Journal in 2017. "I do meetings all over the place, with people that request them, that have policy issues that they want to discuss with community leaders. But in this climate, to advertise town hall meetings, just so that protesters have a forum, just doesn't make a lot of sense to me." King said.
Friday's news release did not explain the reason for King's change of heart on holding more town halls. But the new schedules comes on the heels of King surviving his closest election in a congressional career that dates to 2002.
In November, the incumbent won by 3-percent over Democrat J.D. Scholten, a first-time candidate from Sioux City. The challenger outspent King by nearly 4-to-1. In the closing days of the campaign, King also was forced to fend off multiple questions about his ties to far-right groups and politicians with white nationalist views.