Trump raises stakes for next shutdown fight

Less than 48 hours after Congress reached a bipartisan deal on 2017 spending, President Trump warned the next round might not be so easy.

The president on Tuesday roiled the debate over a 2018 spending package — five months before Congress’s deadline to pass it — by promoting the notion that a “good shutdown” in September would go a long way toward fixing the “mess” in Washington.

Arriving by tweet just after 9 a.m., the comment — unprecedented for a sitting president — was seen as no threat to the 2017 omnibus funding package, which Congress is expected to send to Trump this week to prevent a shutdown on Saturday. 

But it appears to reflect Trump’s frustration with reports and analyses, many from conservative allies, that the Republicans were rolled during the negotiations over the current bill, which included almost none of the prominent policy riders the White House had initially demanded.



Democrats have been triumphant, claiming a lopsided victory in the debate, and both The New York Times and The Washington Post deemed Trump among the losers. 

Trump, the consummate ­deal-maker who puts a premium on winning, lashed out Tuesday morning, blaming Senate Democrats for forcing the Republicans’ hands and urging an overhaul of Senate rules to empower the GOP majority.

“The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there! We either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51%,” Trump tweeted.  

“Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess!”

The comment created a new headache for GOP leaders on Capitol Hill, who control all levers of power in Washington for the first time in a decade and want to demonstrate that they can govern effectively. And Democrats, who have warned for months that Republicans would bear the political fallout of a government shutdown, took no time to pounce. 

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck Schumer84 mayors call for immigration to be included in reconciliation Senate infrastructure talks on shaky grounds Could Andrew Cuomo — despite scandals — be re-elected because of Trump? MORE (D-N.Y.) said Trump’s threat “disparages” the 2017 deal — a rare instance of bipartisan cooperation — simply “because he didn’t get 100 percent of what he wanted.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accused the president of “recklessly threatening chaos in the lives of millions of Americans.” And Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), head of the House Democratic Caucus, said Trump is crying “shutdown” simply because he lost the first round.

“I guess maybe some of the victories we had in this … omnibus is maybe getting under the president’s skin a little bit,” he told reporters in the Capitol.

The White House insisted the negotiation did not go poorly for Trump. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and White House Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney both made surprise appearances during Tuesday’s daily press briefing to rattle off campaign promises that were kept in the deal. 

Mulvaney also sought to explain Trump’s call for a shutdown later this fall. 

“I think the president is frustrated with the fact that he negotiated in good faith with the Democrats and they went out to try and spike the football and make him look bad,” he said. 

Mulvaney, a former House lawmaker who had championed the last government closure in 2013, went on to explain what a “good shutdown” might look like.

“It’s not a goal, and it’s not a negotiating tool,” he said. “But to the extent that the president advocated for one today, if you want to imagine what a good shutdown was, it’s one that fixes this town.”

Many Republicans on Capitol Hill, however, were quick to push back. The GOP was blamed politically for the 16-day shuttering in 2013, and few appear eager to repeat the episode, particularly for a president with historically low approval ratings. 

“I don’t think there’s a good government shutdown,” Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters. “Really, it shows our inability to solve our nation’s problems in a normal way.” 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynDACA court ruling puts weight of immigration reform on Democrats Schumer feels pressure from all sides on spending strategy Data reveal big opportunity to finish the vaccine job MORE (Texas), the second-ranking Senate Republican, piled on, saying a shutdown would be an “abdication of responsibility, particularly if you’re in the majority.”

“Our voters, the people who elected Republican majorities in both houses and elected this president, did not vote for us in order to shut down the government,” he said. “They voted for us to govern, as hard as it is.”

If GOP lawmakers are frustrated with Trump, however, the feeling may be mutual.

The businessman-turned-president has vented frustration with the slow pace of work on Capitol Hill. 

“I’m disappointed that it doesn’t go quicker,” Trump told Fox News last week when asked about the Republican effort to repeal and replace ­ObamaCare.

In the end, Trump’s shutdown threat seems designed to send an early warning to the Democrats that the White House won’t back down in September, when the 2017 spending package expires. But the effectiveness of that strategy will hinge on the reaction of Democrats, whose votes the Republicans will need to pass the 2018 spending package. 

With the Republicans likely to shoulder the blame for a shutdown, Democratic leaders are already warning Trump that his gambit will backfire. 

“They’ve not been real successful to this point in going it alone,” Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), vice chairwoman of the House Democratic Caucus, said Tuesday. “We’re ready to have those battles if they come in September.”