President Donald Trump’s budget director is holding out hope that feuding Democrats and Republicans in Congress can reach a short-term spending agreement before the start of the workweek Monday, but he worries that the government shutdown could last for several more days if progress remains elusive.
Democratic lawmakers challenged the president to get more involved and to accept bipartisan compromise as a way out of a federal shutdown that entered its second day Sunday amid finger-pointing from both parties as to who bears primary responsibility.
“I really do believe that at heart here there was an interest by some folks in the Democratic Party to deny the president sort of the victory lap of the anniversary of his inauguration, the chance to talk about the success of the tax bill, the success of the economy and jobs,” budget director Mick Mulvaney said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“And I think if they get over that, there’s a chance this thing gets done before 9 o’clock on Monday morning when folks come to work,” he said.
Democratic lawmakers counter that the president hurt negotiations by initially expressing support for a compromise and then abruptly turning it away.
“How can you negotiate with the president under those circumstances where he agrees face-to-face to move forward with a certain path and then within two hours calls back and pulls the plug?” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on ABC’s “This Week.”
Four Republicans opposed the House-passed plan. The measure gained 50 votes to proceed to 49 against, but 60 were needed to break a Democratic filibuster. One of the senators who voted against it, Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky, said he is opposed to short-term fiscal bills and called the blame game “ridiculous on both sides.”
“It’s gamesmanship and it’s partisanship,” Paul said.
Paul said the answer to solving the brinksmanship is to guarantee Democrats in writing that they’ll get their debate on immigration issues.
Durbin said bipartisan conversations are taking place and lawmakers from both sides are “in good faith trying to find common ground and put this behind us.”
“But at the end of the day, the president has to step up and lead in this situation,” Durbin said.
Lawmakers are participating in rare weekend proceedings in both the House and Senate, where lawmakers were eager to show voters they were actively working for a solution — or at least actively making their case why the other party was at fault. The scene highlighted the political stakes for both parties in an election-year shutdown whose consequences are far from clear.
Democrats refused to provide the votes needed to reopen the government until they strike a deal with Trump protecting young immigrants from deportation, providing disaster relief and boosting spending for opioid treatment and other domestic programs.
The shutdown began Saturday on the anniversary of Trump’s inauguration. As lawmakers bickered in the Capitol, protesters marched outside in a reprise of the women’s march from a year ago. The president remained out of sight and canceled plans to travel to his resort in Florida for the weekend. He did tweet, making light of the timing by saying Democrats “wanted to give me a nice present” to mark the start of his second year in office.
And he resumed his social media commentary early Sunday, tweeting that it was “Great to see how hard Republicans are fighting for our Military and Safety at the Border. The Dems just want illegal immigrants to pour into our nation unchecked.” He suggested that if the stalemate drags on, majority Republicans should consider changing Senate rules to do away with the 60-vote threshold to advance legislation and “vote on real, long term budget.”
“We have to acknowledge our respect for the minority, and that is what the Senate tries to do in its composition and in its procedure,” Durbin responded.
Trump earlier had worked the phones, staying in touch with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., while White House legislative affairs director Marc Short and the budget chief, Mulvaney, met at the Capitol with House Republicans. GOP lawmakers voiced support for the White House stance of not negotiating while the government was shuttered.