Trump says he has ‘no problem’ shutting down government
Washington – Unnerving fellow Republicans, President Donald Trump declared Monday he would have “no problem” shutting down the federal government this fall if Congress won’t come up with more money for border security.
Trump’s threat, his second in two days, put him further at odds with his own party in Congress, where many Republicans are facing tough re-election fights this November. A shutdown when government funding expires at the end of September, just weeks before the midterm elections, would be the second under unified Republican control of Washington, following a weekend stoppage in January.
“I would have no problem doing a shutdown,” Trump said during a joint press conference at the White House with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. “It’s time we had proper border security. We’re the laughingstock of the world.”
The president’s comments suggest he continues to believe that an election-season showdown over immigration would fire up his base and boost his party’s chances of holding power in Congress. Republican leaders disagree, hoping they can avoid a high-profile display of dysfunction and focus their message on the GOP tax cuts and the strong economy.
Trump has made no secret of his belief that his hard-line immigration policies boosted him to the Oval Office, and he launched an aggressive push for additional border security measures early this year. They include $25 billion toward construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, but he acknowledged on Monday his demands are a starting point.
“I’ll always leave room for negotiation,” he said.
Republican leaders believed they had secured Trump’s patience last week when they huddled at the White House to discuss strategy ahead of the budget year that starts Oct.1.
After the meeting, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told a radio interviewer that a shutdown so close to the Nov. 6 midterm elections won’t happen. He said the border funding issue in particular would probably have to wait until after the elections.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Capitol Hill after the meeting with Trump: “The president’s willing to be patient to make sure that we get what we need so that we can get that done.” He added that money for the wall was “not a question of if, it’s a question of when.”
But on Sunday, Trump reversed course in a surprise tweet: “I would be willing to ‘shut down’ government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall!”
“Must get rid of Lottery, Catch & Release etc. and finally go to system of Immigration based on MERIT!” he tweeted.
With time so short, lawmakers appear most likely to approve a short-term funding measure to keep the government open through Election Day. That would set up another fiscal showdown during a lame duck session.
Trump on Monday said he had no “red line” for precisely what he would require from Congress, and he made no comment on timing.
The president has pledged to campaign aggressively, starting after Labor Day, to help Republicans retain control of the House and Senate, but GOP lawmakers don’t appear to be rallying to his side this time on immigration.
Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are working to fund the government and that Trump’s threat “is not good for anything.”
He added: “It might help him. It might not help him. It doesn’t help us right now.”
Trump campaigned on a promise of building a wall to deter illegal immigration and to make Mexico pay for it. Mexico has refused, leading Trump to look to U.S. taxpayers to fund the endeavor.