Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer clashed Friday over how closely the White House is engaging in government funding negotiations as a possible shutdown looms later this month.
Schumer hit back at McConnell after the Senate majority leader told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that the Democratic leader was talking to the White House about keeping the government open beyond April 28, when current federal funding expires.
McConnell said he’s "optimistic" that Congress will head off a government closure once it returns from its two-week recess later this month. Only a few days will remain to pass a funding bill.
"I’ve talked to Schumer," said McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. "Schumer’s in negotiations with the White House, which is important, because we’ll need Democratic votes to pass the government funding bill when we get back."
But Schumer spokesman Matt House quickly refuted any suggestion that the New York Democrat is discussing a government funding bill with the administration. The White House has pushed congressional Republicans to add money for Trump’s border wall, but the GOP is weighing whether to spurn that request amid strong Democratic opposition.
“The White House has not been heavily involved and Senator Schumer is not engaged in appropriations talks with the administration," House said in a statement, adding that lawmakers in both parties "have been making very good progress" on a funding bill that can pass.
"The only thing that could derail that progress is the White House insisting on their extraneous demands, which would meet bipartisan opposition," House added.
Schumer has met with Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney, according to a Senate Democratic aide, to tell Mulvaney that the White House should stay on the sidelines of congressional budget talks that were already proceeding successfully. But the aide said that conversation did not constitute a negotiation.