WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday that the U.S. government “needs a good shutdown” in September to fix a “mess” in the Senate, signaling his displeasure with a temporary spending bill that Republican congressional leaders — and Trump himself — are praising as a major accomplishment.
On Twitter and then in a White House ceremony, Trump issued contradictory statements ahead of key votes in Congress on the budget bill to keep the government running into the fall. After advocating for a future shutdown on Twitter, he hailed the budget agreement as a boost for the military and border security.
“This is what winning looks like,” Trump said during a ceremony honoring the Air Force Academy football team. He said, “Our Republican team had its own victory — under the radar,” he and called the bill “a clear win for the American people.
Trump’s embrace of a potential government shutdown came days after he accused Senate Democrats of seeking such an outcome and obstructing majority Republicans during recent budget negotiations. Lawmakers announced Sunday they had reached an agreement to avoid a shutdown until Oct. 1 — a deal that does not include several provisions sought by Trump, including money for a border wall.
It also came at the start of a week in which the House is considering a possible vote on a health care overhaul that would repeal and replace Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
Congress is expected to vote this week on the $1.1 trillion spending bill.
After Trump’s tweets, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin defended the budget plan, telling reporters, “No longer will our military be held hostage for domestic spending.” He said the spending package was an “important first step in the right direction” that included a “big down payment” on border security and the military.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the funding bill is the product of bipartisan negotiations, and that it “delivers some important conservative wins, including critical steps forward on defense and border security.”
The White House on Monday had praised the deal as a win for the nation’s military, health benefits for coal miners and other Trump priorities, a message that Trump reiterated in the Rose Garden on Tuesday.
But the president appeared to indicate unhappiness with the budget plan when he kicked off the day by taking to Twitter. “The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there!” He added, “We “either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51 (percent). Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess!”
That contradicted Trump’s message less than a week ago.
Last Thursday, Trump had tweeted that Democrats were threatening to close national parks as part of the negotiations “and shut down the government. Terrible!” He also tweeted at the time that he had promised to “rebuild our military and secure our border. Democrats want to shut down the government. Politics!”
His Tuesday tweets about Senate procedures came after Senate Republicans recently triggered the “nuclear option” to eliminate the 60-vote filibuster threshold for confirming Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. That change allowed the Senate to hold a final vote to approve Gorsuch with a simple majority, an approach that has not been used for legislation.
McConnell has said he’s not inclined to change Senate rules on the filibuster and legislation. “There’s not a single senator in the majority who thinks we ought to change the legislative filibuster. Not one,” he said in April.
White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney also praised the budget deal in a conference call with reporters. Asked to explain Trump’s advocacy for a shutdown, Mulvaney said, “Right now I’m not worried about September, I’m worried about this deal that’s in front of us.”
“I think the president’s tweet was that we might need a shutdown at some point to drive home that this place, that Washington needs to be fixed. I think that’s a defensible position, one we’ll deal with in September. The truth of the matter though is now we’ve averted a government shutdown in a way that allows the president to fund his priorities,” Mulvaney said.
Any future shutdowns would likely cost the federal government billions of dollars. The 16-day partial government shutdown in 2013 cost $24 billion, according to Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s. That included lost revenue for the national parks.
“President Trump may not like what he sees in this budget deal, but it’s dangerous and irresponsible to respond by calling for a shutdown,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
The White House and congressional Republicans are pressing to reverse a Washington narrative that the catchall bill is a win for Democrats.
Mulvaney cited a $15 billion infusion of defense spending — about half of what Trump asked for in March — as a huge win. He also claimed credit for $6 billion in war funding approved by former President Obama as a Trump win. He also cited $1.5 billion in emergency money for border security.
He correctly noted that the pending measure would be a victory for Republicans because the administration succeeded in breaking the link — forged over several Obama-era spending deals — that required that any increases in military spending be matched by an equal, dollar-for-dollar increase for nondefense programs.