President Donald Trump cheered on the idea of another government shutdown on Tuesday, telling lawmakers at a White House roundtable that he would "love" to see one if it helped get a tough immigration deal through Congress.
"If we don’t change the legislation, get rid of these loopholes where killers come into our country and continue to kill ... if we don’t change it, let's have a shutdown. We’ll do a shutdown, and it's worth it for our country," Trump said at a law enforcement roundtable that focused on immigration issues and on the MS-13 gang, which the Trump White House has cracked down on.
"I’d love to see a shutdown if we don’t get this stuff taken care of," he added. "And if we have to shut it down because the Democrats don’t want safety — and unrelated but still related, they don’t want to take care of our military — then shut it down. We’ll go with another shutdown."
Trump’s support for a potential shutdown faced pushback from a fellow Republican, Rep. Barbara Comstock of Virginia, who faces a tough re-election battle in a congressional district that is home to many federal workers. She told Trump at the roundtable, "We don’t need a shutdown over this."
Trump responded, "You can say what you want," but later re-emphasized his original position. "I would shut it down over this issue," he said. "I can’t speak for our great representatives here, but I have a feeling they might agree with me."
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Trump’s remarks came just two days before government funding was set to run out — again — and came amid growing efforts by both chambers of Congress to reach a deal.
A short-term government funding bill — which ended a three-day shutdown in January — will expire Thursday, and questions remain regarding whether Congress will be able to pass a fifth stop-gap funding bill to keep the lights on.
A deal on DACA, the issue that helped lead to the last government shutdown, has yet to emerge that will get the support of the White House.
The House was expected to vote on another short-term spending bill Tuesday night, setting up a showdown with the Senate with just two days before government funding runs out.
While that particular bill has little chance of passing the Senate, party leaders in the chamber had expressed optimism — just moments before Trump began speaking — that they would reach a deal.
"I'm very pleased to report my meeting with Leader McConnell went very well," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y, said. "We're making progress on a spending deal that would increase the caps for both military and middle class priorities on the domestic side that Democrats have been fighting for."
Moments later, when told of Trump's latest remarks, Schumer flatly rejected the president's latest threat.
"We had one Trump shutdown," he told lawmakers at a Senate policy luncheon Tuesday. "Nobody wants another — maybe except him."
Later Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Democrats would be to blame for a prospective shutdown and that Trump wasn't seeking one — although he would welcome another battle with the opposition party.
“If the Democratic Party is going to continue to threaten a shutdown because they won't include responsible immigration reforms including fixing MS-13 loopholes and other issues then the president welcomes that fight,” she said. “It is a fight we won last time."
“We are not advocating for a shutdown,” she added.