WASHINGTON -- After railing against Democrats for weeks and pushing a sweeping tax plan over their objections, President Donald Trump reached out to the rivals Monday -- a subtle acknowledgment that he'll need their help to avert a government shutdown at the end of the week.
Trump invited congressional leaders to the White House Thursday for discussions on a year-end budget deal, a do-over after Democrats backed out of an earlier meeting when the president tweeted shortly beforehand that he saw "no deal" to be made.
Trump had little choice but to soften his approach. Because many Republican lawmakers refuse to vote for almost any new spending bill, Trump needs Democrats to provide what House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.,) calls "the currency of the realm" -- the votes needed to approve a bill to keep government running.
That gives Democrats, who are the minority, a powerful negotiating hand in talks at the White House. In exchange, Democrats want concessions from Trump, particularly an immigration deal to protect young "Dreamers" from deportation as the White House phases out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, that allows them to legally work and remain in the U.S.
"We're glad the White House has reached out and asked for a second meeting," Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a joint statement. "We hope the president will go into this meeting with an open mind, rather than deciding that an agreement can't be reached beforehand."
Congress often makes a year-end sprint through its legislative to-do list, but this year's pile-up is particularly daunting as lawmakers race to finish complicated business before the holidays.
For Republicans, the top priority is to pass the $1.5 trillion tax plan, accomplishing a major campaign promise before Christmas.
The House was set Monday to appoint members of a conference committee to begin reconciling the tax bills approved by the House and Senate into a final product, which will probably be voted on next week.
But first Congress must deal with Friday's deadline to fund the government.
Leaders are lining up a stopgap measure to provide money for two weeks while budget negotiations continue. That would push the deadline to Dec. 22.