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Trump uses empty chairs to shame “Chuck and Nancy” for canceling on him

Negotiations to prevent a government shutdown aren’t going so well.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 28: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media during a meeting with congressional leadership in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on November 28, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump spoke on the recent intercontinental ballistic missile launch by North Korea. Democratic leaders Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, and Re. Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, skipped the meeting with President Trump. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images) Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
Jen Kirby is a senior foreign and national security reporter at Vox, where she covers global instability.

“Chuck and Nancy” stood Donald Trump up for his budget-deal meeting, and he, apparently, is not going to let them forget it.

The president, flanked by two empty chairs for no-shows Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, said he was “not really that surprised” they didn’t come, even if the seating chart suggested otherwise. (At least he didn’t try to talk to the chairs.)

The two Democrats pulled out of a budget-deal meeting with Donald Trump on Tuesday, after the president bashed them on Twitter, saying “I don’t see a deal!”

Trump reiterated those sentiments at his press briefing. “We have a lot of differences,” Trump said of Schumer and Pelosi. “They’re weak on crime, they’re weak on illegal immigration, they want the illegal folks to come pouring into our border — and a lot of problems are being caused, although we’ve stopped it to a large extent, as much as you can without the wall, which we’re going to get.”

Trump’s comments highlight the sticking points between Democrats and Republicans as the December 8 deadline to avert a government shutdown looms. Democrats want certain guarantees in any deal, including protections for unauthorized immigrants brought to the US as children and restored funding for CHIP, the children’s health insurance program. Trump wants a big, beautiful border wall.

“So they decided not to show up,” Trump continued. “They’ve been all talk, and they’ve been no action. And now it’s even worse. Now it’s not even talk.”

Trump added, “In light of the missile launch, they probably will be here fairly quickly.”

Schumer and Pelosi didn’t come rushing into that briefing, where Trump also weighed in on the Senate’s tax plan and North Korea’s missile launch. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan also reprimanded their Democratic colleagues for not showing up, though it was possible to almost miss their presence, sitting at far ends of the table.

Pelosi later responded to Trump’s empty-chair bit on Twitter, saying “it showed he was more interested in stunts than in addressing the needs of the American people.”

Pelosi and Schumer had previously said they would continue dialogue with their GOP counterparts, despite canceling on the president.