Politics

Senators Learning to Shrug Off Trump’s Tweets

President’s social media lobs on government funding talks largely dismissed

President Donald Trump used Twitter to jump into government funding talks but his actions had little effect on the negotiations. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A number of senators shrugged off President Donald Trump’s decision to express his views on the latest government funding debate on Twitter, suggesting that the social media platform might not be the best way for the president to convey his views to Congress.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said they did not pay much attention to the president’s Twitter missives, as talks to avert a government shutdown continued.

“The president has not been an active player in this negotiation,” said Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin. The Illinois Democrat said talks have mainly occurred between House and Senate leaders.

“In this situation, the president had some issues that were problematic, like the [U.S.-Mexico border] wall,” Durbin said of the funding talks. “And we had to put that behind us before we could sit down with the other things on the table.”

In a series of seven tweets Thursday morning, Trump accused Democrats of wanting to shut down the government over reimbursing Medicaid payments for Puerto Rico and continuing subsidy payments to insurance companies to help lower-income individuals pay for health care under the 2010 overhaul law.

“The Democrats want to shut government if we don’t bail out Puerto Rico and give billions to their insurance companies for Ocare failure. NO!” the president tweeted.

The night before Trump’s tweetstorm, lawmakers had made significant progress in the standoff over the cost-sharing payments. The administration had informed lawmakers the payments would continue, which Democrats called a welcome development.

Trump’s morning messages did not appear to further complicate those negotiations. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, the ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said Trump was just trying to shift the blame of a potential shutdown away from Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress.

“There have been so many things that he tweets that make no sense at all,” the Vermont Democrat said. “So I don’t bother anymore. But maybe he’s afraid his own party is going to close down the government.”

Asked whether Trump’s tweets affect negotiations like the ongoing spending talks, Leahy said, “I think people are kind of ignoring the tweets up here. I think some would pay attention at first, but I don’t find many Republicans or Democrats who care about what he’s tweeted.”

“It doesn’t help, but I don’t know that it makes that much difference,” Arizona GOP Sen. Jeff Flake said of the president’s tweets. “I’m kind of used to it by now.”

Some Republicans did defend the president, accusing Democrats of being uncooperative in the spending talks.

When informed of Trump’s tweets Thursday morning, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn jokingly pulled out his phone but declined to directly answer whether the president’s actions were helpful to the ongoing negotiations.

Instead, the Texas Republican said Democrats hadn’t been “entirely cooperative,” though he added that he hoped “to get to a good place.”

While Democrats mainly dismissed Trump’s tweets, they were concerned that he falsely tweeted that the minority party was blocking a provision funding a health care program for retired miners.

“The whole push for miners has come from Democrats,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said. “It was resisted by Republicans for a long time and now maybe they’re going along. So it was out of touch with reality, that tweet.”

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill said Trump’s supporters take him seriously and it was “too bad that he’s putting out that kind of misinformation.”

But Sen. Joe Manchin III, a key advocate for miners’ health care, shrugged off the charge, saying he had spoken directly with the president about the issue.

“Sometimes tweets are just tweets,” the West Virginia Democrat said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has often said he would rather the president not take to Twitter. But the Kentucky Republican hasn’t had much success convincing Trump to log off.

“I’ve been pretty candid with him and with all of you that I’m not a great fan of daily tweets,” McConnell said at a February press conference.

The question remains as to whether the president will continue to publicly broadcast his criticisms during future negotiations. But it appears likely that his tweets won’t have a significant effect on ongoing talks.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a former presidential candidate who sharply criticized Trump on the campaign trail, suggested the president’s in-person negotiating style would be more effective in future issues with Congress.

“I’ve spent more time with this president than I have with any president. I think he listens to people. I think he adjusts positions when he thinks he needs to, which is a good quality,” the South Carolina Republican said. “I think that kind of style will help him as we get into more contentious issues.”

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