Senate

Trump leaves GOP in turmoil with shutdown looming

Republicans are girding themselves for a partial government shutdown, just in time for Christmas.

The partial shutdown has grown more and more likely, they say, because of President Trump’s self-defeating comments at a White House meeting with congressional Democrats earlier this week about how he would accept blame for a shutdown caused by his demands for $5 billion in wall funding.

Two days later, the GOP has no plan for keeping the government open — or for escaping blame for a partial shutdown.

“There is no discernable plan, none that’s been disclosed,” Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (Texas) said when asked how President Trump and GOP leaders would avoid a shut down.

{mosads}GOP lawmakers are waiting on Trump to signal what kind of funding bill he’s willing to sign into law in the face of staunch Democratic opposition to spending any new money on a border wall. 

“Everybody is looking to him for a signal about what he wants to do, and so far it’s not clear,” Cornyn said of the president.  

The House held its last vote of the week Thursday and will not be back in session until Wednesday — just two days before the deadline for keeping the government open.

GOP leaders have talked about moving a funding bill that includes the $5 billion in funding for a wall. They’ve even said they believe they could get the votes for the legislation. But the fact that they have not brought a bill to the floor suggests they lack the votes, since passing the bill could give them more leverage in the fight with Democrats.

Trump at the Tuesday meeting with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said he could have a bill passed by the House easily. “Then do it,” Pelosi said, goading the president.

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), the chief deputy whip, asked whether the GOP would gain leverage by passing the funding bill with $5 billion in wall funding, said he wasn’t sure it was in the House GOP’s interest to send the bill to the Senate if it couldn’t get through that chamber.

“Ok, so it’s December after the election. We shouldn’t be here for show, we should be here to get our work done and get out of here,” he told reporters Wednesday evening. “We have to look at where we are in this process and what is the additive piece here: Is it the stay and wait or is it to take action? So those two things matter for a call like this.” 

Republicans are coming off an election in which they lost 40 seats, and their leadership is in transition.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who is retiring at the end of the year, has largely kept out of public view. His deputies, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), aren’t always on the same page.  

Scalise announced Thursday that the House would advance a bill with Trump’s requested $5 billion for the border wall. 

But McCarthy seemed unaware of that plan, according to Bloomberg News, which reported that when asked about it, McCarthy told a reporter, “I didn’t hear him say that. … Interesting.”    

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said the House’s failure to pass a bill presented a significant problem.

“That’s a central question,” he said. “We’re at an impasse and at the moment it doesn’t look like things are getting any better.”

{mossecondads}He floated the possibility of Congress passing an emergency stopgap bill funding the government until Dec. 26 or Jan. 3. He also said there is discussion about a stopgap lasting until late January or early February. 

A House GOP aide said the negotiations now are primarily between the president and Senate leaders. 

“At this point it’s really between Chuck Schumer and Trump,” the source said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is the GOP’s Senate point man in talks with Trump, but he and the president disagree on tactics. 

While Trump declared Tuesday that he would be proud to shut down the government over border security, McConnell strongly wants to avoid that scenario.

“He has zero interest in going through a government shutdown,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, said of McConnell. 

Rank-and-file Republicans are also pushing back against Trump’s threat to shut down the government.

“This is a case where I think people are putting their political interests ahead of the best interests of the American people. The best interest of the American people is for the government to function smoothly,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a member of the House Appropriations Committee.

“I personally don’t think a government shutdown will work,” he added.

Schumer on Thursday morning declared in a Senate floor speech that Democrats won’t budge from the offer they made to Trump in the Oval Office Tuesday. 

He said Democrats will pass a yearlong stopgap bill funding the Department of Homeland Security or a measure funding all the departments and agencies covered by the seven unfinished appropriations bills. 

Both options would keep funding for border fencing at the same level Congress appropriated for fiscal 2018: $1.3 billion. 

“I want to be crystal clear. There will be no additional appropriations to pay for the border wall. It’s done,” Schumer declared on the Senate floor.

In the House, some Republicans sounded ready to try to find a compromise — and a way out.

“We need to secure our borders, I support that, I support the president, but at some point and time we need to get things done,” said Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Mich.).

With few bargaining chips left on the table, a lame-duck Speaker and Democrats set to retake the majority in January, House Republicans are acknowledging their colleagues across the aisle may have the upper hand. 

“Well, with the dynamic of the Senate, I think there’s certainly some degree of truth there and with the change of the majority in the House, that I think gives the Democrats a little more leverage than they would have otherwise,” Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) told The Hill. “I don’t know if they have the upper hand, but they certainly have a more equal hand than they would have otherwise.”

Tags Appropriations Border wall Budget Charles Schumer Chuck Schumer Dan Newhouse Donald Trump John Cornyn Kevin McCarthy Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Patrick McHenry Paul Mitchell Paul Ryan Richard Shelby Shelley Moore Capito Shutdown Steve Scalise Tom Cole

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