Politics

Trump Declares Love for Shutdown Over Immigration

Bipartisan action in House, Senate undercuts his remarks about Democrats

The Capitol Visitor Center, usually full of tourists, sits empty on Jan. 22 during a government shutdown. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump barreled past members of his own party and nascent signs of progress on a broad budget and immigration deal Tuesday, threatening a government shutdown if he does not get what he wants. 

“I’d love to see a shutdown if we can’t get this stuff taken care of,” the president said Tuesday, just over 48 hours before funding expires. “If we have to shut it down because the Democrats don’t want safety ... let’s shut it down.”

Minutes later, Trump and Virginia GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock argued a bit during an event on MS-13 at the White House over shutting down the federal government if there is not a bipartisan immigration deal in place by Thursday night.

Comstock, after the president suggested a shutdown might be necessary, told the president both parties have concluded a second shutdown in just a few weeks would be bad for both.

“We don’t need a government shutdown on this,” she said from across the table in the Cabinet Room.

Watch: One Dramatic Week — Congress, Trump Spar Over Shutdown, Then Another Memo

Trump shot back: “You can say what you want. We are not getting support of the Democrats.”

Trump reiterated his claim that “Democrats don’t want to make a deal” to address the DACA program and other immigration issues. But what is happening on Capitol Hill undercuts the president’s claims. That’s because a bipartisan group of senators are working on a compromise and House Democrats are pressing Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., to commit to a debate on an immigration deal.

 

But, using one of his preferred verbal qualifiers, he added: “But we’ll find out.”

Still, the president left little room to maneuver for congressional negotiators on immigration. 

“I would shut it down over this issue. I can’t speak for everybody at the table but I will tell you, I would shut it down over this issue. If we don’t straighten out our border, we don’t have a country. Without borders we don’t have a country. So would I would shut it down over this issue? Yes. I can’t speak for our great representatives here but I have a feeling they may agree with me,” he said, per the White House pool report. 

Meanwhile, the president decried the “levels of ferocity” of groups like MS-13, and said the gang members just traverse the U.S.-Mexico border whenever they feel like it, an echo of his infamous campaign kick-off when he said rapists and criminals were being sent to the United States from points south. 

“[Wherever] they want to come through, they come through,” Trump said. “We don’t have the wall, we’re never going to solve this problem.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday the move toward an open immigration debate as long as the government remains past Thursday. McConnell said the debate will be fair to both sides and “whoever gets to 60 wins.”

Watch: McConnell, Schumer Hopeful About Avoiding Shutdown

McConnell didn’t say which measure he plans to bring to the floor and remained cagey about his personal preferences, saying he’s “not trying to tip the playing field.”

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, appeared on Monday to cast doubt on the chances of reaching a bipartisan deal on immigration legislation before the government runs out of money later this week.

“After the president made what I think is an extraordinarily generous offer, we’ve heard nothing in response by way of a counteroffer,” he said. “So I guess [Democrats] are waiting for Sen. McConnell’s promise to bring a bill to the floor on Feb. 8 and see what happens from there.”

Which bill should be brought to the floor, Cornyn said, is “McConnell’s decision to make.”

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