By Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday she wished President Donald Trump’s family or staff would conduct an “intervention” with him for the good of the United States after he threw what she called a temper tantrum at a meeting with Democratic congressional leaders a day earlier.
Trump fired back, questioning Pelosi’s mental state by saying she has “lost it” while calling himself an “extremely stable genius.”
As the acrid fight intensified between the Republican president and the Democrats who control the House amid talk of impeaching Trump, work on a two-year federal budget deal has ground to a near standstill as the task of basic governing in Washington has become increasingly complicated.
Trump, who is seeking re-election in 2020, and Democratic leaders for a second straight day lobbed accusations and insults at each other after the collapse of an infrastructure deal that could have pumped $2 trillion into the U.S. economy, if lawmakers and the president had found a way to pay for it.
“Again, I pray for the president of the United States. I wish that his family, or his administration, or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country,” Pelosi told reporters.
An “intervention” often refers to relatives, friends or co-workers confronting an individual struggling with a intractable problem in the hope of improving that person’s behaviour.
Trump took aim at Pelosi.
“I tell you what, I’ve been watching her and I have been watching her for a long period of time. She’s not the same person. She’s lost it,” Trump said during remarks about an aid package for farmers hit by the U.S. trade war with China.
Pelosi also accused Trump of obstruction of justice, which she said could be an impeachable offence.
“The White House is just crying out for impeachment,” Pelosi said, but added that “the House Democratic caucus is not on a path to impeachment. And that’s where he wants us to be.”
Trump is stonewalling multiple congressional inquiries into him, his policies, family and business holdings, while Pelosi has worked hard to tamp down demands among some Democrats to begin impeachment proceedings. Some Democrats fear that launching the impeachment process in Congress established in the U.S. Constitution to remove a president from office could backfire and benefit Trump politically.
On Tuesday, the four top Democratic and Republican congressional leaders reported progress towards a deal with the administration on setting federal spending levels for the next two years and raising the U.S. Treasury Department’s borrowing limit.
Without such a deal, the federal government faces the prospect of another round of shutdowns later this year and a potentially devastating U.S. credit default. Since Tuesday, lawmakers and aides have gone silent on the outlook for more talks.
Asked on Thursday if a deal on the budget or on the U.S. debt would get done, Trump said, “We’ll see what happens.”
Eventually, the main players will almost certainly have to re-engage. Failing to do so would disrupt the government and hurt the economy. Even so, questions lingered about whether the mercurial Trump would support any deal negotiators might craft.
In a hopeful sign, House and Senate negotiators reached a deal on a $19.1 billion disaster aid bill that has Trump’s support, senators said on Thursday.
Policy chaos swept Washington on Wednesday when Trump walked out of a White House meeting with Democrats, saying he could not work with them on an infrastructure bill as long as lawmakers are investigating him. Pelosi had earlier accused him of engaging in a “cover up” over investigations of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections and other matters.
Trump responded on Thursday with a tweet that said, “The Democrats have become known as THE DO NOTHINGPARTY.”
Congressional leaders last December negotiated an agreement on federal spending that they had been assured Trump would support, only to have him back out at the last minute, triggering a prolonged, partial shutdown of the U.S. government.
There also is little evidence that lawmakers and the administration will unify to address the issue of immigration along the southern border with Mexico. Also in doubt is whether Congress this year will approve a U.S.-Canada-Mexico trade agreement negotiated by Trump’s administration.
Pelosi wrote on Twitter, “When the ‘extremely stable genius’ starts acting more presidential, I’ll be happy to work with him on infrastructure, trade and other issues.”
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu, Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Will Dunham)