Republicans distance themselves from shutdown tactics

Senate Republicans on Sunday described the freshly ended 35-day partial government shutdown as an ineffective and harmful tactic deployed to secure funding for President TrumpDonald John TrumpAlaska Republican Party cancels 2020 primary Ukrainian official denies Trump pressured president Trump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' MORE’s proposed wall along the southern border.

Fresh off a Friday vote to reopen the government for three weeks, lawmakers described the shutdown as an exercise in futility that harmed Americans, and expressed optimism lawmakers could hammer out a legislative compromise in the next three weeks.

“Shutdowns are never good policy, ever,” Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump judicial picks face rare GOP opposition GOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan Sinema touts bipartisan record as Arizona Democrats plan censure vote MORE (R-Maine) said on CBS's “Face the Nation." “They are never to be used as a means to achieve any kind of goal no matter how important that goal may seem to be."

ADVERTISEMENT

“Prior to the shutdown at a meeting with the White House, I conveyed to the president my belief that he should not pursue this route,” added Collins, one of six GOP senators who broke with their party and voted last week for an ultimately unsuccessful Democratic measure to reopen the government.

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Memo: 'Whistleblower' furor gains steam Liberal super PAC launches browser extension replacing 'Mitch McConnell' with 'Moscow Mitch' Trump faces difficult balancing act with reelection campaign MORE (R-Fla.) similarly argued on CNN's "State of the Union" that shutdowns are not “good leverage" and generally don't benefit the instigating party.

Even as lawmakers decried the toll of the shutdown on federal workers and the economy, the White House refused to rule out the possibility that Trump would allow funding to lapse again in three weeks.

“Is the president really prepared to shut down the government again in three weeks?” anchor Margaret Brennan asked acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTrump judicial picks face rare GOP opposition Trump administration asks Supreme Court to take up challenge to consumer bureau NOAA chief praises agency scientists after statement backing up Trump tweet MORE on “Face the Nation."

“Yeah, I think he actually is,” Mulvaney said. “Keep in mind, he's willing to do whatever it takes to secure the border.”

The president last Friday signed a bill to fund the government until Feb. 15, ending the longest shutdown in the country's history. The funding lapse was triggered by Trump's demand for more than $5 billion to fund a wall along the southern border, but the short-term spending bill did not include money for the structure.

The decision marked a sharp reversal for Trump, and prompted criticism from corners of his conservative base that he capitulated to Democratic opposition after vowing for weeks not to do so.

The president's defenders on Sunday framed his decision as a show of flexibility, and portrayed Trump as a willing negotiator.

Mulvaney downplayed criticism of the move, insisting on "Fox News Sunday"  that Trump will "be judged by what happens at the end of this process, not what happened this week."

ADVERTISEMENT

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyClarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Zuckerberg to 'cooperate' on antitrust probes | Dems see victory after McConnell backs election security funds | Twitter takes down fake pro-Saudi accounts Lawmakers say Zuckerberg has agreed to 'cooperate' with antitrust probe MORE (R-Calif.) criticized Democrats on "Meet the Press" for insufficiently engaging with the president's proposals, and credited Trump with putting "the American people before politics."

“The president is the only one who has been reasonable in these negotiations," McCarthy said on "Meet the Press."

As part of the agreement to reopen the government, a bipartisan group of lawmakers from both chambers of Congress will meet to discuss specific funding for border security measures.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntClarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump McConnell support for election security funds leaves Dems declaring victory Paul objection snags confirmation of former McConnell staffer MORE (R-Mo.), who will serve on the committee, said on "Fox News Sunday" that he's "reasonably optimistic" the group will reach an agreement satisfactory for all involved.

"We need to work hard to see that we find how we can solve this in a way that the president gets what he needs, but the American people fundamentally get the government that they deserve," he said.

Democrats have staunchly opposed funding for the president's border wall, but some party members on Sunday indicated there could be room for compromise.

Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesBadrun Khan to challenge Ocasio-Cortez in Democratic primary Lewandowski, Democrats tangle at testy hearing Words matter, except to Democrats, when it involves impeaching Trump MORE (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said on "Meet the Press" that a concrete barrier spanning the border is a "medieval" solution and a "waste of taxpayer dollars." 

He said Democrats will be open to investing in infrastructure, personnel and technology, and that the enhanced fencing that party members have supported in the past "should be on the table."

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinO'Rourke gun confiscation talk alarms Democrats Clarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump Schumer: I don't know any 'Democrat who agrees' with O'Rourke on gun seizures MORE (D-W.Va.) echoed that sentiment, saying on "Face the Nation" that he would vote for a barrier along the border as long as it's part of a "holistic approach."

"An immigration reform has to be part of it," he said. "Just putting money towards a structure is not going to do the job that needs to be done."

Collins predicted that the three weeks of negotiations will culminate with an agreement to continue building physical barriers like those approved during the last two administration, "but not to the degree the president has requested."

The White House has been adamant that Trump will secure funding for the border wall regardless of whether Congress appropriates the money.

“We’ll work with the Democrats and negotiate, and if we can’t do that, then we’ll do a — obviously we’ll do the emergency because that’s what it is. It’s a national emergency,” Trump told reporters on Friday.

Mulvaney reiterated Sunday that the president intends to move forward on border security "with or without Congress."

The prospect of an emergency declaration proved Sunday to be just as unpalatable to Republicans as the shutdown, however, as party members argued that the move would prompt drawn out legal challenges and set a dangerous precedent.

"I hope the president doesn't have to go there," Blunt said. "If we'll do our job, he won't even have to consider going there three weeks from now."

Rubio called an emergency declaration a "terrible idea."

"It doesn't mean that I don't want border security," he said. "I do. I just think that's the wrong way to achieve it. It doesn't provide certainty. And you could very well wind up in sort of a theatric victory at the front end and then not getting it done."