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The White House embarked on a 24-hour spin battle with Democrats over a bipartisan spending bill deal reached Monday with Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney giving three separate defenses of the deal to reporters.
The briefings — one of which was televised in place of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s usual daily appearance — was more than an hour long.
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The Tuesday afternoon budget dealing characterizations swung from forceful characterization of a White House win on border security and existing border wall repairs to a roasting of Democrats for celebrating their own legislative priorities in the bill.
“They wanted a shutdown,” Mulvaney accused. “We know that."
The president, however, had called for a "good 'shutdown" himself just Tuesday morning, arguing it would fix the "mess" in Congress.
Asked to define what that meant, Mulvaney said "if you wanted to imagine what a good shutdown was it would be one that fixes this town," allowing that a shutdown is neither a goal nor a negotiating tool despite his boss' tweet.
Seeking to disrupt the narrative that Democrats won on key funding proposals, President Donald Trump proclaimed to an audience gathered in the Rose Garden earlier in the day that the U.S. would see increases in defense spending and an end to “painful cuts to our military.”
“And we didn’t do any touting like the Democrats did, by the way,” Trump said, though Mulvaney had appeared before reporters twice in the last 24 hours to do just that.
Then the president followed suit, announcing his administration’s spending achievements on $21 billion for defense, plus increased funding for border security and a health care extension for coal miners.
“With this major investment in America’s national defense, a core campaign promise of mine, we are at last reversing years of military cuts and showing our determination and resolve to the entire world — and believe me, the entire world is watching — and we have resolved like never, ever before,” he said.
Trump also jabbed Democrats over border security funding.
“We have more money now for the border than we’ve gotten in 10 years,” Trump celebrated. “The Democrats didn’t tell you that. They forgot.”
Mulvaney on Tuesday called it "fine" and "understandable" for Democrats to want to declare victory on the deal made to continue to fund the government through September, but pushed back on the idea "that they won and that we lost."
"The truth of the matter here is that what happened is the American people won and the president negotiated that victory for them," he said.
These multiple and full-throated defenses all come in spite of the fact that the spending bill fails to make good on several of the White House's key promises.
It does not include funding to begin construction of his famed wall along the Southern border and continues money for Planned Parenthood. Mulvaney instead trumpeted the increases in defense spending and money for border security — despite the lack of "brick and mortar" allocations for the wall — as well as wins for proponents of school choice.
"When he signs this legislation more money for defense, more money for border security, more money for school choice — exactly what he said he would do," Mulvaney said his first briefing, Monday evening.
Flanked by images of border fences, Mulvaney instructed reporters that border security did mean wall reinforcement and construction.
"That is better border security," he said, referencing the images that were later tweeted by Spicer. "You can call it new wall, you can call it replacement, you can call it maintenance, call it whatever you want to."
But some Republicans, like Sen. Lindsey Graham, aren't scoring this in the win column for the White House or the GOP.
"This was not winning from the Republican point of view," he said on CNN, adding that the Democrats "clean our clock" in these negotiations.
Mulvaney also defended the president's tweeted prescription for a shutdown in the next round of spending negotiations in September, saying "I think the president's tweet was that we might need a shutdown at some point to drive home that this place, that Washington needs to be fixed. I think that's a defensible position, one we'll deal with in September."
"We’ve got a lot to do between now and September," he reiterated hours later. "I don’t anticipate a shutdown in September, but if the Democrats aren’t going to behave any better than they have in the last couple of days, it may be inevitable."
On Monday, Democratic leaders said they were happy with the results of the negotiation.
"Overwhelmingly we were very pleased with the outcome on issue after issue both on the spending side and on the legislative side, the poison pill side," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters in a rhetorical victory lap Monday afternoon. "I would not say there’s a major loss in here, there are a few things we would’ve preferred come out differently.”