Politics

Trump Raises Christmas Shutdown Odds to ‘Very Good’

President is not serious about negotiating with Democrats, Sen. Coons says

President Donald Trump argues about border security and his wall with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as Vice President Mike Pence sits nearby last week in the Oval Office. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

President Trump raised the odds of a partial government shutdown Friday when he told reporters a Christmas crisis is “very” likely, sending another clear signal he is in no mood to negotiate with lawmakers.

“It’s possible that we’ll have a shutdown, I would say the chances are probably very good because I don't think Democrats care so much about, maybe, this issue,” he said.

But Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., contended Trump is not really trying to negotiate a way to avert a shutdown.

“If the president actually wants to negotiate and avoid a shutdown he should be negotiating with both Democratic and Republican leadership,” Coons said, adding that he sees much of the debate about border barrier funding is more about “optics than substance.”

“The president is trying to cast this as Democrats don’t care about border security, I do. That’s not true. This is about the visuals of him pounding his chest over this,” Coons said.

Trump and Senate Republicans met for more than an hour in the Oval Office Friday morning as nine cabinet departments and a list of smaller federal agencies were just hours away from running out of funding.

But at no point during an hourlong event during which he gave extended remarks then signed a criminal justice reform bill he did the president announce any proposal he or Senate Republicans might offer or are working on that would avoid a crisis. Nor did Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell when he returned to the Capitol and delivered what amounted to a sales pitch for Trump’s proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall.

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“There’s a very good chance it won’t get passed,” Trump said of a House-passed stopgap spending bill being voted on by Senate in what could be a lengthy process; the vote started at 12:31 p.m. and could remain open into the afternoon since senators are still in the air.

Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt wasn’t at the meeting with Trump, but he said other Republican senators were told the three takeaways were that the president is interested in the nuclear option, that the border wall matters to him, and that a shutdown is acceptable to Trump.

Trump seemed giddy that House Republicans passed a version of the continuing resolution with over $5 billion for his wall project even though House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told him last week he lacked ample votes in the House to pass such a measure. That’s in line with his quest for the kinds of short-term political “wins” that he often talks about.

“We are going to be working very hard to get something passed in the Senate,” Trump told reporters, adding it is “up to the Democrats as to whether or not we have a shutdown tonight.”

But there was no indication he plans to meet with House or Senate Democrats about a potential eleventh-hour compromise. And rather than working the phones to twist Democratic arms or offer them something in return for their votes, he kept the press pool in his office and allowed bill-signing participants to also give remarks as he went around the Oval Office recognizing his invited guests one-by-one.

[LIVE BLOG: Shutdown Countdown — Here’s the Latest]

The president said he hopes there is no partial shutdown but he is prepared to ride it out if one happens in a few hours. For now, he is hunkered down at the White House; he was slated to leave the executive mansion Friday afternoon for a two-week vacation at his Mar-a-Lago resort in South Florida, but those travel plans are, for now, on hold.

Back at the Capitol, McConnell was asked by a group of reporters who eagerly tweeted his gloomy prediction if he now thinks there will be a shutdown at midnight. He replied, they tweeted, there is a “good chance.” Then he went to the floor and jabbed at Democrats, using language similar to Trump’s border wall advocacy.

“A lot of them have supported this in the past,” McConnell said of Democratic senators and previous immigration bills with enhanced border security measures. He blamed the “far left” for pulling Democratic senators away from “common sense measures.”

“Let’s advance this legislation,” he said of the House-amended stopgap.

Around the same time in the Oval Office, the president — who repeatedly touted the House’s Thursday night passage of the short-term spending bill that includes border wall funding — described the two-day slide toward a holiday shutdown as “positive.”

Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report.What Really Happens During a Government Shutdown, Explained

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