With clock ticking on another potential government shutdown, Trump blames Democrats
Amid contentious talks on border security, President Trump sought Sunday to preemptively cast blame on Democrats if an impasse over his demand for a border wall leads to a second partial government shutdown this week.
Stopgap funding for about one-third of the government is due to expire at midnight Friday, and congressional negotiations over border security and other immigration-related issues have stalled, according to participants.
The snag, if it lasts, could presage another shutdown, although a degree of posturing by both sides is not unusual under such circumstances, as neither side wishes to appear overly willing to make major concessions.
Trump in December publicly said he would be “proud to shut down the government.” That remark dogged him throughout the 35-day closure that followed until he was ultimately forced to temporarily abandon his demand for $5.7 billion for his desired border wall.
Sunday, he took to Twitter to paint Democrats as the responsible party this time around.
“I actually believe they want a Shutdown,” he tweeted. He suggested that Democrats wanted to deflect attention from issues like the messy fight in Virginia over whether Gov. Ralph Northam and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, both Democrats, should resign over scandals involving racist behavior and accusations of sexual misconduct.
“They want a new subject!” tweeted Trump, whose own week was marked by a widely derided congressional appearance by his acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, who evaded questions about whether Trump attempted to quash some of the multiple investigations surrounding him.
Also this past week, the president delivered a combative State of the Union speech during which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) greeted his seemingly incongruous call for “compromise and the common good” with sarcastic clapping.
Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, said in an interview aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that another shutdown “absolutely cannot” be ruled out, although many of Trump’s GOP allies in Congress have made it clear they hope to avoid such a scenario.
Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Mulvaney suggested another way out, saying the president would “take whatever money Congress agrees to allocate for border barriers” and then “go off and find the money someplace else, legally.”
Trump’s promised border wall “is going to get built, with or without Congress,” he said.
One of the leading GOP congressional negotiators, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, described the talks as “stalled right now.”
“I’m hoping we can get off the dime,” he added, also on Fox, “because time is ticking away.”
Negotiators have said that given the time required under House and Senate rules to pass legislation, they need to have an agreement finished by Monday to guarantee passage by Friday.
The president has remained insistent in his demand for $5.7 billion for border barriers, while Democrats, who now control the House, have said they will not offer more than $2 billion.
The two sides also disagree over the number of beds at immigrant detention centers. Republicans are contesting a Democratic effort to reduce the number of detentions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“A cap on ICE detention beds will force the Trump administration to prioritize deportation for criminals and people who pose real security threats, not law-abiding immigrants who are contributing to our country,” Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Downey), one of the lead Democratic negotiators, said in a statement.
Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, another member of the conference committee, said he remained “very hopeful” that negotiators could arrive at a “common sense” agreement.
“It’s a negotiation — negotiations seldom go smooth all the way through,” he said on Fox. “It’s give and take, it’s compromise, it’s the way government is supposed to work.”
On Twitter, the president implied that Democratic congressional negotiators were being prevented by their leadership, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York, from making concessions on what he called a “desperately needed Border Wall.”
“I don’t think the Dems on the Border Committee are being allowed by their leaders to make a deal,” Trump tweeted.
Prior to the previous shutdown, the two parties did have an agreement, only to have it scuttled by Trump.
Democrats taking part in the negotiations are saying aloud what their Republican counterparts cannot: that Trump’s fealty to the notion of a wall, which he made into a central campaign issue, remains the principal wild card in the talks.
Underscoring that, Trump was to travel Monday to El Paso for a campaign-style rally expected to focus on his demand for a border barrier.
Rep. John Yarmuth, a Kentucky Democrat, said on ABC’s “This Week” that he believed talks convened by Mulvaney at the presidential retreat of Camp David could have reached an accord “in less than a day” if the acting chief of staff were president.
“I think the big problem here is this has become pretty much an ego negotiation,” said Yarmuth. “This really isn’t over substance.”
Republicans also continued to suggest that Trump might move to circumvent Congress with an emergency declaration on the wall, a step that would be certain to face a strong legal challenge.
Rep. Tom Graves, a Georgia Republican, said on ABC that Trump was “right to have contingency plans” for moving ahead in the event of a continued stalemate.
“He’s going to have some plans in place,” Graves said.
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