Jan. 15 (UPI) -- A group of rank-and-file House Democrats turned down an invitation to a luncheon with President Donald Trump to discuss border security Tuesday as the partial government shutdown entered its 25th day.
Among the Democrats invited were members of the of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition Reps. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla.; J. Luis Correa, D-Calif.; and Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., tThe Washington Post reported.
Murphy cited a scheduling conflict, while a spokesman for Correa said he "welcomes the opportunity to talk with the president about border security, as soon as the government is reopened."
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders announced the lunch would go on with just House Republicans. The impasse over Trump's demand for $5.7 billion to construct a barrier at the U.S.-Mexico border remains the central issue of what has become the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.
"The president looks forward to having a working lunch with House Republicans to solve the border crisis and reopen the government. It's time for the Democrats to come to the table and make a deal," Sanders said.
Democratic leaders made it clear that rank-and-file members were welcome to attend the luncheon with the president, while some publicly questioned whether the invitation was intended to cause a split among the House Democrats.
"The question that I think everyone can reasonably ask is, is he inviting people to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to really try to resolve this problem or to create a photo op so he can project a false sense of bipartisanship?" questioned Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., who chairs the House Democratic Caucus. "That is a question that I think every individual member will have to entertain for themselves."
Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif., said many of her fellow first-year congressional members believed no Democrats should attend the luncheon.
"I would say that that is definitely the general feeling, is that whoever goes to the White House is kind of setting themselves up to be used as a stunt," she said.
Meanwhile, federal employees hoping to receive regular payment were delivered another blow Tuesday when District Judge Richard Leon denied requests to pay air traffic controllers currently working without pay.
Leon denied a request by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association as well as two additional restraining orders by the National Treasury Employees Union and individual federal workers.
He stated the judiciary "is not and cannot be another source of leverage," in the pursuit of payment for federal workers, as Congress is the only branch of government with power to appropriate funds under the Constitution.
"We are an independent and coequal branch of government even if we can't keep our lights on," Leon said.
The so-called "big six" of veterans' groups including The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America, American Veterans, and Disabled American Veteran, held a joint news conference Tuesday calling for an end to the shutdown.
At least 150,000 veterans are employed by the agencies affected by the shutdown, according to the White House Office of Management and Budget.
"We ask the president and the Congress to get together, get your act together and get this situation resolved," said Regis "Rege" Riley, national commander of American Veterans.
The U.S. Coast guard has been affected by the shutdown as it is part of the Department of Homeland Security, leaving the American Legion to offer grants of up to $1,500 for Coast Guard members not receiving pay.
"As a non-profit, The American Legion is not capable of funding the entire Coast Guard payroll," the Legion's national commander, Brett Reistad, said.