Senior senators on both sides of the aisle where left dumbfounded on Tuesday by President TrumpDonald TrumpGraham says he hopes that Trump runs again Trump says Stacey Abrams 'might be better than existing governor' Kemp Executive privilege fight poses hurdles for Trump MORE’s fiery threat to partially shut down the government unless he gets the money he wants for a border wall, which is unlikely.
Republican leaders have spent weeks trying to steer the president away from a government shutdown, but all that work went out the window earlier in the day when Trump declared in front of television cameras that he would be “proud” to shut down the government over border security.
“I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck, because the people of this country don’t want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country,” Trump told Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats press Schumer on removing Confederate statues from Capitol Democrats' do-or-die moment Biden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan MORE (N.Y.) while cameras were still in the room before a scheduled meeting.
“I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it,” Trump said to Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: House must pass 3 major pieces of spending legislation this week Sunday shows preview: Pelosi announces date for infrastructure vote; administration defends immigration policies GOP should grab the chance to upend Pelosi's plan on reconciliation MORE (Calif.), who was also in the room.
The frank moment left Democratic and Republican leaders stunned.
“The president showed what he really thinks. He wants to shut down the government,” Schumer said upon arriving back at the Capitol.
Asked if he expected that reaction, Schumer said, “No, we were not expecting it.”
GOP leaders were left cringing by Trump’s vow to take responsibility for a partial shutdown and his promise not to blame Democrats.
Asked if he had seen the exchange on television, Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynAbbott bows to Trump pressure on Texas election audit Senate panel advances antitrust bill that eyes Google, Facebook Democrats up ante in risky debt ceiling fight MORE (R-Texas), said, “I did, unfortunately. I wish I didn’t.”
Senate Republican Conference Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSchumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Congress facing shutdown, debt crisis with no plan B GOP warns McConnell won't blink on debt cliff MORE (S.D.) threw up his hands when asked about his reaction.
“I heard it was very entertaining television,” he said.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - House Democrats plagued by Biden agenda troubles GOP warns McConnell won't blink on debt cliff McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE (R-Ala.), who urged the president in a private meeting before Thanksgiving not to shut down federal agencies over the border wall, said he would have handled it differently.
“I’ve never said that myself. I’m always trying to work to fund the government,” he said.
Shelby said Trump’s comments heightening the likelihood of a shutdown.
“I think it’s a step in that direction, obviously, at least [with] the rhetoric,” he said.
Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyPhotos of the Week: Renewable energy, gymnast testimonies and a Met Gala dress Senators denounce protest staged outside home of Justice Kavanaugh Al Franken on another Senate run: 'I'm keeping my options open' MORE (Vt.), the senior Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, said he’s never seen a spat play out so publicly at a senior-level White House meeting during all his years in Congress.
“I’ve only been here with eight presidents,” said Leahy, who was elected to the Senate in 1974.
“Somehow he’s made up his mind that it will make him look good to have a Trump shutdown, but a Trump shutdown costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, creates havoc and does nothing for border security,” he added.