President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday that the federal government “needs a good ‘shutdown’” this year to fix the “mess” in the Congress.
“Either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51%,” Trump tweeted in reference to Senate rules requiring 60 votes to end a filibuster.
The president’s tweets come ahead of a key vote on a bipartisan funding deal to avert a government shutdown. Both parties claimed victory for the bill that, if approved, would keep the government open through September 30. But Democrats portrayed themselves as having the upper hand in the negotiations by securing funding for Planned Parenthood and omitting any money for a wall along the southern border of the United States.
House Republicans meeting to discuss the way forward on health care were surprised by the White House’s pivot to a shutdown threat over funding priorities and Senate procedure.
"The president said what?" Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, told reporters after being read portions of his tweets. "You’ll have to talk to the president about that. I don’t work in the White House and I don’t sit in the Senate.”
The GOP-controlled Senate approved the so-called “nuclear option” on Supreme Court nominations earlier this year to prevent Democrats from blocking Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation. The lowered threshold does not apply to legislation and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, along with more than 60 senators, have said they would oppose applying the option outside of judicial nominees.
McConnell shot down the president’s idea after emerging from a scheduled meeting between Vice President Mike Pence and Republican senators.
“There is an overwhelming majority on a bipartisan basis not interested in changing the way the Senate operates on our legislative calendar and that will not happen,” he told reporters.
McConnell added that “the American people expect us to work together” and cited the new spending agreement as a “perfect example” of bipartisan cooperation.
The last government shutdown lasted 16 days in 2013. The Trump threat is a drastically different approach than President Barack Obama took during that time, when he warned of the disruptive effects of shuttering the government, while also attempting to pin the closure on Republican obstructionism.
Congressional Democrats quickly jumped on the president for advocating shutting down the government.
“We saw Democrats and Republicans working together in the best traditions of the Senate and the president disparaged it in a way that’s destructive, essentially saying ‘Let's have a shutdown,’” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor.
"Threatening to shut down the government, on the heels of a successful, bipartisan agreement, is a sour and shameful note to kick off negotiations for [the upcoming fiscal year]," Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement. "Governing by tweet and manufacturing a crisis before our work even begins is no way to lead."