- President Donald Trump seems prepared for an extended government shutdown.
- Trump demanded the Senate pass a bill that includes funding for a wall along the US-Mexico border, a prospect that is dead on arrival in the Senate since Democrats could filibuster the bill.
- So Trump urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to get rid of the legislative filibuster, a move known as the “nuclear option.”
- The Senate passed a short-term funding extension on Wednesday that looked to spare Washington the shutdown drama. But Trump suddenly flipped on that bill after pushback from conservative pundits.
- The Senate is voting on a funding bill that includes border wall funding, it is expected to fail.
President Donald Trump is digging in just hours before a partial shutdown of the federal government and appears to be ready for a long fight over money for a wall along the US-Mexico border.
“I hope we don’t, but we are totally prepared for a very long shutdown,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Friday.
Trump also attempted to lay the blame at Democrats’ feet, despite his demands being at the crux of the fight.
“We are going to be working very hard to get something passed in the Senate. There’s a very good chance it won’t get passed,” Trump said. “It’s up to the Democrats. So it’s really the Democrat shutdown. Because we’ve done our thing.”
The statement was a drastic change from Trump’s comments 10 days ago, when the president told the Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi that he would be “proud” to shut down the government over the wall.
“I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck, because the people of this country don’t want criminals, and people that have lots of problems, and drugs pouring into our country,” Trump said at the time. “So I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it – the last time you shut it down, it didn’t work. I will take the mantle of shutting it down.”
Earlier Friday, Trump went on a Twitter tirade focusing on the government-funding fight. Trump has pushed the federal government to the brink of a shutdown over demands for $US5 billion in funding for his long-promised wall along the US-Mexico border.
In an attempt to form a cohesive strategy for the shutdown fight, Trump invited Republican Senate leaders to the White House on Friday “to discuss the Funding Bill and the importance of Border Security,” the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a statement earlier in the day.
“Senator Mitch McConnell should fight for the Wall and Border Security as hard as he fought for anything,” Trump tweeted. “He will need Democrat votes, but as shown in the House, good things happen. If enough Dems don’t vote, it will be a Democrat Shutdown! House Republicans were great yesterday!”
While Trump is now attempting to pin the blame on Democrats for not agreeing to fund the wall, the shutdown became more imminent after he flip-flopped on his begrudging support for a short-term funding extension through February 8 – known as a continuing resolution, or CR – that the Senate passed on Wednesday.
After pushback from conservative pundits like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, as well as members of the hardline House Freedom Caucus, Trump suddenly decided on Thursday that he would not sign the CR. The about-face led to a mad scramble among GOP lawmakers.Eventually, the House passed a CR that includes $US5.7 billion for border security.
Trump applauded the move via Twitter on Thursday night.
“Thank you to our GREAT Republican Members of Congress for your VOTE to fund Border Security and the Wall,” Trump said. “The final numbers were 217-185 and many have said that the enthusiasm was greater than they have ever seen before. So proud of you all.”
But the House’s CR has virtually no chance of passing the Senate, since the bill would need the support of nine Democratic senators to avoid a filibuster. (Any bill with fewer than 60 votes in favour can be subject to a filibuster.)
The Senate opened a procedural vote on the House’s version of the bill and the vote remains open over three hours later as Senators return to Washington from their home states.
In the face of the insurmountable odds, Trump urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to do away with the filibuster to get the bill through the chamber.
“Mitch, use the Nuclear Option and get it done! Our Country is counting on you!” Trump tweeted.
Trump has repeatedly called on McConnell to employ the “nuclear option” in the past, but the majority leader has resisted and shot down the suggestion every time. Lawmakers have argued that getting rid of the filibuster would result in a more volatile chamber and destroy the last concrete rule that forces bipartisan agreement.
But some GOP senators appeared to be cracking under Trump’s pressure. Sen. Steve Daines of Montana echoed Trump’s call for the “nuclear option.”
“House just passed a bill that fully funds government and enables @realDonaldTrump to secure our border/build the wall,” Daines tweeted Thursday. “Senate can do same by eliminating the filibuster. 51 votes, same as we do for judges!”
The elimination of the filibuster for judicial appointments, carried out in 2013 by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, was a highly controversial move that many consider a mistake in retrospect.