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Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer Discusses Meeting With Trump Over Shutdown


We begin this hour as we have started our program for the last three and a half weeks - with large parts of the federal government shut down. There is no end in sight for the stalemate that has now stretched to 26 days. Leaders on both sides are not talking, but members of the House Problem Solvers, many of whom are Democrats, had lunch with the president today.


White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on Twitter this afternoon that the meeting was constructive and that the group now has a good understanding of what each side wants. Democratic Congressman Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey was one of the members of that bipartisan meeting, and he joins us now. Welcome.

JOSH GOTTHEIMER: Thanks for having me.

SHAPIRO: Do you agree with Sarah Sanders that it was a constructive meeting? Do you feel like you have a better understanding of what the president wants?

GOTTHEIMER: Well, I certainly thought it was productive. You know, we met as a bipartisan group in the Situation Room this morning. I think both sides listened to each other. I think we both walked away believing there was a way forward, there is a way forward. You know, what we've made very clear and - is we've got to open up the government, and we've got to do so now. There's a group that - and I think a significant group in Congress of both parties and in both houses of Congress that are willing to sit down and talk to one another and deal with some of the toughest issues in our country.

But you've got to reopen the government. You know, our security, our safety, our economy, our - have been compromised. You know, we've got millions of families suffering, so we've got to get the government reopened. But there's also a real desire for both sides to sit down and find a way forward.

SHAPIRO: So up until now, Republican leaders have said they will not reopen the government without an agreement to fund the wall. Are you saying that seems negotiable now?

GOTTHEIMER: Well, I would say that, you know - and I don't want to get into - if it's OK - all the specifics of our conversation in the room this morning, but I'll say that I think both sides did listen to one other, as Sarah Sanders said. You know, both sides heard where we're each coming from, and I think that's very important, which is why I think you've got to keep talking to one another. We've got to sit at the table because there's too much at risk. You've got to get the government open. I know I think on some of the issues that many of us are talking about, we think there is a bipartisan agreement to be had, but it's very difficult to do, you know, under these circumstances.


GOTTHEIMER: And you can't really have a proper discussion under these circumstances.

SHAPIRO: Just to dramatically oversimplify the possible end-game scenarios, on one hand, either side could get everything they want, but the two more likely scenarios seem to be, first, Congress agrees to fund less than the president is asking for. I don't know. Maybe it's $2.5 billion rather than $5 billion. And the second scenario is that the government reopens. The negotiation happens. An agreement is reached on border security afterwards. Does one of those seem more likely to you than the other at this point?

GOTTHEIMER: Well, I think what's most likely without getting, you know, that would - without revealing all of the conversation - you know, I think what is most likely, I believe, a way out of this is that both sides are going to have to be willing to not get everything they want. Both sides are going to have to be willing to put a little faith in actually - in reopening the government but also being willing to sit at the table and have these conversations and looking for that pathway. And until we actually - until we do that, it's very difficult to solve this problem.

And I think what we heard in this meeting and, you know, from both sides is there's a real desire to get out of this, but it's going to take us, to your point on - that you just said - it's going to really take us to be willing to not get everything - both sides not get everything they want but to get most of what they want.

SHAPIRO: You're saying that there is some - that this was a constructive meeting is actually the most optimistic thing I've heard out of anybody in the last nearly a month. So just in our final minute...

GOTTHEIMER: (Laughter) Yes, so...

SHAPIRO: What is the next step? Is it the leaders to get together with the president? Is it more...


SHAPIRO: ...Of these lower-level negotiations?

GOTTHEIMER: Yes, you know, I think - the negotiations that are going to happen over whether we're talking about immigration - fix immigration and border security - those conversations have to happen at a high - you know, at a leadership level. And I think we talked about that today. That's - but the - why I am - I thought the conversation, to your point, was constructive. I am optimistic because we're actually talking, and I think...


GOTTHEIMER: ...We need to do more of that, and that's the point.

SHAPIRO: All right. Democratic Congressman Josh...

GOTTHEIMER: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: ...Gottheimer of New Jersey, thanks so much.

GOTTHEIMER: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.