WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday that the nation “needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September” to fix a “mess” in the Senate, issuing contradictory messages ahead of key votes on a spending plan to keep the federal government running.
Trump’s embrace of a government shutdown came days after he accused Senate Democrats of seeking a shutdown and obstructing majority Republicans during recent budget negotiations. Lawmakers announced Sunday they had reached an agreement to avoid a shutdown until September — a deal that does not include several provisions sought by Trump, including funding for a border wall.
Congress is expected to vote this week on the $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund the government through September. The White House on Monday praised the deal as a win for the nation’s military, health benefits for coal miners and other Trump priorities. The House is also considering a possible vote this week on a health care overhaul that would repeal and replace the so-called Obamacare law.
Kicking off the day, the president tweeted Tuesday from his Twitter account, “The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there!” He added that we “either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51 (percent). Our country needs a good “shutdown” in September to fix mess!”
About an hour later, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin defended the budget plan, telling reporters, “No longer will our military be held hostage for domestic spending.” He said the spending package was an “important first step in the right direction” that included a “big down payment” on border security and the military.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the funding bill is the product of bipartisan negotiations, and that it “delivers some important conservative wins, including critical steps forward on defense and border security.”
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney also praised the budget deal in a conference call with reporters. Asked to explain Trump’s advocacy for a shutdown, Mulvaney said, “Right now I’m not worried about September, I’m worried about this deal that’s in front of us.”
“I think the president’s tweet was that we might need a shutdown at some point to drive home that this place, that Washington needs to be fixed. I think that’s a defensible position, one we’ll deal with in September. The truth of the matter though is now we’ve averted a government shutdown in a way that allows the president to fund his priorities,” Mulvaney said.
But the presidential tweets displayed a contradictory message on the budget deal.
Last Thursday, Trump had tweeted that Democrats were threatening to close national parks as part of the negotiations “and shut down the government. Terrible!” He also tweeted at the time that he had promised to “rebuild our military and secure our border. Democrats want to shut down the government. Politics!”
Democrats said Trump’s shutdown suggestion sent the wrong message. “President Trump may not like what he sees in this budget deal, but it’s dangerous and irresponsible to respond by calling for a shutdown,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
Trump’s Tuesday tweets about Senate procedures came after Senate Republicans recently triggered the “nuclear option” to eliminate the 60-vote filibuster threshold for Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. That change allowed the Senate to hold a final vote to approve Gorsuch with a simple majority, an approach that has not been used for legislation.
McConnell has said he’s not inclined to change Senate rules on the filibuster and legislation, something that has been echoed by other Republicans. McConnell said in April, “Who would be the biggest beneficiary of that right now? It would be the majority, right?” McConnell told reporters. “There’s not a single senator in the majority who thinks we ought to change the legislative filibuster. Not one.”
Any future shutdowns would likely cost the federal government billions of dollars. The 16-day partial government shutdown in 2013 cost $24 billion, according to Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s. That included lost revenue for the national parks.
The White House and congressional Republicans put on a full-court press to reverse a Washington narrative that the catchall bill was a win for Democrats.
Mulvaney cited a $15 billion infusion of defense spending — about half of what Trump asked for in March — as a huge win for Trump. He also claimed credit for $6 billion in war funding approved by former President Barack Obama as a Trump win. He also cited $1.5 billion in emergency money for border security.
Another item Mulvaney cited as a big win was retention of longstanding prohibitions against federal funding of abortion called the Hyde amendment.
But Mulvaney correctly noted that the pending measure was a victory for Republicans because the administration succeeded in breaking the link — forged over several Obama-era spending deals — that required that any increases in defense spending be matched by an equal, dollar-for-dollar increase for nondefense programs.
“The American people won and the president negotiated that victory for them.”