Trump threatens shutdown as negotiators close in on Budget deal
WASHINGTON: President Trump called on Tuesday for shutting down the federal government if Congress does not crack down on illegal immigration, even as congressional negotiators closed in on a major budget deal that would set spending levels for two years and break the cycle of fiscal crises that has bedeviled the nation's capital.
On Tuesday night, the House approved a stopgap spending bill that would increase military spending through September while keeping funds flowing to the rest of the government for six weeks. The House measure is unlikely to pass the Senate, where Democrats insist that an increase in military funds be matched with additional domestic spending.
But the House vote was a first step in what congressional leaders hoped would be a legislative dance that yields a bipartisan spending deal. Mr. Trump's comments, though combative, had little to do with the delicate negotiations, a fact that appeared to elude Mr. Trump. They did, however, add a note of uncertainty.
"I'd love to see a shutdown if we don't get this stuff taken care of," Mr. Trump said at a meeting with lawmakers and law enforcement officials to discuss gang violence. "If we have to shut it down because the Democrats don't want safety," he added, "then shut it down."
The two-year deal that congressional leaders want would raise statutory spending caps on military and nonmilitary spending through September 2019. That agreement would further balloon the budget deficit, but it would also ease the way to passing a temporary spending measure before the government shuts down on Friday. A longer-term spending deal could follow shortly thereafter.
"We are closer to an agreement than we have ever been," Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said, referring to the negotiations over raising the spending caps, which were imposed in 2011.
Republicans were similarly upbeat. "I'm optimistic that very soon we'll be able to reach an agreement," said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader.
But if the bipartisan deal falls through, lawmakers have no clear plan to keep the government open past Thursday, with the parties disagreeing over spending priorities and the president lobbing verbal bombs from the White House.
"I would shut it down over this issue," Mr. Trump said as he demanded an immigration deal on his terms. "If we don't straighten out our border, we don't have a country."
Trump's call for a shutdown was not the first time he had brandished the threat of closing down the government. He mused on Twitter last year that the country "needs a good 'shutdown,'" a suggestion Democrats did not forget.