Trump shutdown moves leave GOP senators in disbelief

GOP senators emerged from the closed-door meeting in visible disbelief that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' MORE is refusing to sign a seven-week stopgap measure to fund the government that cleared the chamber by a voice vote less than 24 hours ago.

Senate GOP leadership appeared confident on Wednesday that Trump would sign the stopgap, which will fund approximately 25 percent of the government, as long as they kept poison pill policy riders out of it.

But Trump, under fire from conservative pundits and lawmakers, reversed course Thursday. 

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“Are you ruining my life?” GOP Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates The Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates Democratic challenger to Susan Collins announces Senate bid MORE (Maine) joked to The Hill when told about the decision.

“No. I don’t think the votes are [there], ugh. We can’t have a government shutdown, period,” she said, when asked if there was an alternative to the Senate bill. “It’s never good. How many times do we have to learn that?”

House conservatives and Trump appear to be digging in for their demand for $5 billion for the border, a figure Democrats have rejected.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw US women's soccer team reignites equal pay push MORE (D-N.Y.) warned earlier Thursday that Democrats wouldn't budge on the border over a “temper tantrum.”

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonHillicon Valley: Lawmakers angered over Border Patrol breach | Senate Dems press FBI over Russian hacking response | Emails reportedly show Zuckerberg knew of Facebook's privacy issues | FCC looks to improve broadband mapping Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers angered over Border Patrol breach | Senate Dems press FBI over Russian hacking response | Emails reportedly show Zuckerberg knew of Facebook's privacy issues | FCC looks to improve broadband mapping Lawmakers demand answers on Border Patrol data breach MORE (R-Wis.), asked if it looked like Congress was headed toward a partial lapse in funding, told reporters “it kind of seems we’re on the path.” 

“I’m not sure what leverage the president thinks he has at this moment. I think the way you create leverage is keep this issue alive” into next year, Johnson told reporters. 

 
"Well, why not?" he quipped, asked why he was laughing, adding that he was "not really" surprised by Trump's decision. 
 
"On this? I don't know. Y'all have fun. I'm getting ready to fly to Chattanooga.  ...[Leadership] has no guidance right now," Corker said, asked what happened next. "I think they're just sort of swirling around over there at the White House." 
 
Asked if he thought the continuing resolution (CR) could still be signed, Corker added that it's impossible to predict what Trump will do. 
 
"I don't know. ... Who knows. Does the person sitting behind him at the White House know? Who would know? Who would know," Corker said. "I love it, you can't make this stuff up." 

House Republicans are eyeing adding $5 billion in wall funding, as well as money for disaster relief, to the Senate bill.

But Senate Republicans are skeptical that could even clear the House because of absences, much less the Senate, where it will be dead on arrival. 

“Are there enough Republicans here to actually pass that CR with the border wall funding?” Johnson asked, referring to dozens of members who are absent in the House. 

Scores of senators have already left town after the Senate cleared the stopgap bill Wednesday night. Johnson said that roughly a third of the 51-member Republican caucus attended a Thursday lunch and that Republicans believed most Democrats had already left town. 

Johnson said he was unlikely to stay in town with members expected to get a 24-hour notice if they have to vote. Collins said she was also leaving on a plane to Maine. 

Some Republicans were told of Trump's decision while they were in the closed-door GOP lunch, where a senator read out a tweet about the news. Johnson said Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Overnight Defense: Trump doubles down on claim Iran attacked tankers | Iran calls accusations 'alarming' | Top nuke official quietly left Pentagon | Pelosi vows Congress will block Saudi arms sale MORE (R-Ky.) then left the lunch to talk to Ryan. 

Asked about the conversation, a spokesman for McConnell said the two GOP leaders talk almost daily and declined to provide any details of their conversation. 

McConnell later sidestepped several questions about the shutdown after returning to the Capitol from a White House ceremony.

 

Asked if McConnell believed Trump was determined to shut down the government, he said "well we just had a good signing ceremony for the farm bill." 
 
Asked if he was still confident there wouldn't be a shutdown starting on Saturday or if he was discouraged, he added: "The action is over on the House side."
 
Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw McConnell ups pressure on White House to get a budget deal MORE (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, acknowledged that a stopgap bill that included $5 billion for the border wall could not pass the Senate, where it would need Democratic support. 
 
"I think it's all very fluid and you know the president may change his mind—a couple of times," he said. "The worst possible politics are shutdown politics. The only thing worse than shutdown politics might be shutdown politics at Christmas." 

Senators and aides say they've been told to tentatively plan for a noon vote on Friday if the House is able to pass an amended government funding bill. 

Not every GOP senator was as pessimistic about their chances to avoid a shutdown. 

Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsEPA exempts farms from reporting pollution tied to animal waste EPA exempts farms from reporting pollution tied to animal waste Conservatives spark threat of bloody GOP primaries MORE (R-Kan.), asked about extra border funding, said he “would hope” they could get something through the Senate but “I just don’t know where this ends.”

Robert said he was going to the White House later Thursday for the farm bill signing and hoped to get more information there. 

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump to award Medal of Freedom to economist Arthur Laffer Trump gambles in push for drug import proposal Biden's role in Anita Hill hearings defended by witness not allowed to testify MORE (R-Utah), told about Trump's decision, laughed and added “that's good to know."

“There are some ways,” the retiring senator said when asked about additional border funding as he got on an elevator. “[But] you’ll have to wait and see.”