Ex-House GOP leader predicts Trump won't reopen the government until he gets border wall funding

Key Points
  • "I don't see this president backing down," Republican former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says.
  • Trump doubled down Thursday morning, saying if there's no wall deal he would be very surprised if he did not declare a national emergency over border security.
Dem Congressman: Both sides must stay at the table to resolve shutdown

Republican Eric Cantor, a former House majority leader, has a message for Democrats: President Donald Trump will not reopen the government until a border security deal is worked out to fund a barrier along parts of the U.S.-Mexico divide.

"With my experience down there [on Capitol Hill], it doesn't look like to me that there's a deal in the works," said Cantor, who was a congressman from Virginia from 2001 to 2014, with much of his time there in leadership positions. He left Congress after losing the 2014 Republican primary to David Brat, a tea party-affiliated economics professor. In turn, Brat, an ally of Trump, lost his bid for a third, two-year term in the 2018 November midterms, which flipped the House majority from the GOP to the Democrats.

Appearing with Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., on CNBC's "Squawk Box" in New York, Cantor said: "The question is when is the president going to come your way? I don't think that is going to happen."

"I don't see this president backing down," said Cantor, now vice chairman and managing director at investment bank Moelis & Co. "At the end of day, the president is not going to reopen without the wall."

Gottheimer, a Financial Services Committee member and co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, disagreed, saying there's a deal to be had. "You can have tough borders and reopen the government," he said.

Shortly after Cantor and Gottheimer appeared on CNBC, Trump doubled down on his way to Texas, saying if there's no wall deal he would be very surprised if he did not declare a national emergency. Such a move would certainly face legal hurdles but could give Trump the ability to use the military to build the wall instead of getting Congress to approve the funding for it.

The standoff over the wall has resulted in a partial government shutdown, now in its 20th day. If the shutdown extends to Friday, it will be tie with the one in 1995-96 as the longest ever. Also Friday, more than 800,000 federal workers will start missing paychecks.

"It's not just, by the way, the paychecks — which are going to hurt a lot of people and I think you're going to hear about that — but it's affecting everyone's lives," Gottheimer said. "Whether it's a line at the airport; it's getting those IRS refund checks back; it's the businesses that we keep hearing from that can't get their small business loans; it's really having an impact on the economy." 

In the latest high-level attempt to end the funding stalemate, Trump on Wednesday stormed out of a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, calling it "a total waste of time."

Gottheimer said, "The idea of walking away is unacceptable. We've got to get the government back open. People are suffering. It's costing businesses in my district. It's costing businesses across the country. And on top of that, we've got to have tough borders. We need to make sure we keep out terrorists and criminals and gang members and drug dealers. But there's not a reason you can't do both."

Trump was scheduled to travel to the border city of McAllen, Texas, on Thursday to call more attention to what he describes as an illegal immigration crisis.

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