Trump: Shutdown after election if wall not funded
The top two Republicans in Congress arrived at the White House last week armed with props aimed at flattering and cajoling President Donald Trump out of shutting down the government at the end of this month.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., showed the president glossy photos of a wall being built along the U.S.Mexico border.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., brought an article from the Washington Examiner that
described Trump as brilliantly handling the current budget process, portraying the GOP as unified and breaking through years of dysfunction.
Their message, according to two people briefed on the meeting: The budget process is going smoothly, the wall is already being built, and there’s no need to shut down the government.
Instead, they sought to persuade Trump to put off a fight for more border-wall money until after the November midterm elections, promising to try then to get him what he wants, according to those, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to reveal details of the private discussion.
The visual aids were a subtle but deft attempt to win over a president known to prefer visual imagery to wonky typed handouts, and eager to absorb flattery at a time when the White House is enveloped in chaos. But it could take weeks before it’s clear whether their effort was successful.
The calculated intervention came amid another week in which Trump showed he was wrestling internally with whether to follow GOP leaders’ advice or trust his own, impulsive instincts and the demands of a restive Republican base.
One of Trump’s central campaign promises was the construction of a wall along the Mexico border, and he has so far been stymied by Congress in obtaining the funding he says is necessary.
The current construction is replacing existing walls and barriers that have existed for years.
Trump originally promised that Mexico would pay for the wall, but recently he has sought U.S. taxpayer money for the project.
He wants $5 billion for 2019 — something few lawmakers think is obtainable. Trump on Friday said the money could come from Congress or he could try to redirect it from the Pentagon’s budget, adding further confusion to the planning.
The uncertainty has
clouded the budget process on Capitol Hill as lawmakers work desperately to finalize spending bills to pay for government operations before funding runs out Sept. 30 — unable to know whether their efforts will ultimately be thwarted by Trump’s veto.
“You know, he does what he does,” said Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla.“We have to take control of ourselves and we have to put on the table for the president to sign an appropriations package, and let him account for his decision.”
Since March 1, Trump has said he would happily lead the government into a partial shutdown later this year if lawmakers don’t approve the money he wants to build the wall.
Earlier this year, Trump grew furious on several early mornings when he saw news coverage of a giant spending bill, which was being heavily criticized by conservatives for being bloated and stuffed with liberal priorities.
“They are crushing me,” Trump told aides about what the conservatives on Fox News were saying about him.
So Marc Short, who at the time was the White House’s director of legislative affairs, brought Trump a list of what the spending package did for Trump’s agenda, according to administration officials.
Trump then calmed down upon learning more of what was in the bill, but told aides he wanted people to be backing him up on television.
Short repeatedly told lawmakers that they needed to get people on TV if they
wanted Trump to support it — and that it was key to his signing the bill.
Lately, Trump has made clear to top aides that he is on the fence about whether to back another bill. On a recent flight to Pennsylvania, Trump polled advisers about whether he should shut down the government.
Kellyanne Conway, among others, has pushed against it, White House officials said.
Complicating the process is the uncertain outcome of the midterm elections. If Democrats seize control of the House of Representatives, it could become even more difficult for Trump to secure the money.
But GOP leaders are convinced they don’t have the votes to appropriate the money now, even though they control both chambers of Congress. They are trying to avoid a messy fight just ahead of midterms.
Trump seemed to agree with them on Tuesday, telling the Daily Caller that he didn’t want a shutdown.
But by Wednesday, right before the meeting with Ryan and McConnell and as they sat by his side, Trump was raising the possibility.
“If it happens, it happens,” he said.
After Ryan and McConnell presented Trump with the different images, however, the president changed his tune again.
On Thursday, in a Fox News interview, Trump said a fight over the wall could wait.
He said “most likely I will not” call for a shutdown, “but we’re going to do it immediately after the election.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., showed the president glossy photos of a wall being built along the U.S.-Mexico border.