Trump Says Government Shutdown Could Be Needed 'to Fix Mess'--Update

By Louise Radnofsky Features Dow Jones Newswires

President Donald Trump said a government shutdown and a change in Senate rules might be needed to get his priorities through Congress, comments that came as the White House tried to bat down suggestions that Democrats were the winners in the recent short-term spending deal.

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"The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there! We....either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51%. Our country needs a good 'shutdown' in September to fix mess!" Mr. Trump wrote in two tweets sent Tuesday morning.

Mr. Trump's tweets came after media reports saying Democrats were the winners in the negotiations to keep the government open, which resulted in a five-month deal that would run to the end of the current fiscal year.

Congress is expected to vote on the five-month spending bill before midnight Friday, the deadline to prevent a partial shutdown.

The package includes increases in funding for border security and defense, a priority for Mr. Trump and his fellow Republicans, but no money for the construction of Mr. Trump's Mexico border wall. It also includes a funding boost for the National Institutes of Health, despite Mr. Trump's request to cut NIH funding.

Some Democrats responded, calling Mr. Trump's tweets irresponsible. "President Trump may not like what he sees in this budget deal, but it's dangerous and irresponsible to respond by calling for a shutdown. Hopefully, Republicans in Congress will do for the next budget what they did for this one: ignore President Trump's demands, work with Democrats, and get it done," Sen. Patty Murray (D., Wash.) said.

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In a hastily called conference call announced soon after the tweets, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney forcefully repeated the White House's arguments for why Republicans got a good deal. But the call was beset by technical troubles, and Mr. Mulvaney was able to offer few assurances to temper Mr. Trump's threat of a shutdown, which could leave Republican House and Senate candidates vulnerable in 2018 races if a shutdown occurred.

Tuesday afternoon from the White House podium, Mr. Mulvaney defended the spending deal a third time, appearing with pictures of planned border-security changes he said would be funded by the deal and emphasizing to conservative critics of the deal that a Republican-only bill could not pass the Senate.

Mr. Mulvaney said he didn't anticipate a government shutdown in September, but he understood the president's frustration over Democrats "spiking the ball" after negotiating with them in good faith, and that a shutdown could happen if they didn't "behave any better."

Mr. Trump also touted the five-month spending-bill deal in a Rose Garden ceremony Tuesday honoring members of the Air Force Academy football team, describing it as an "under the radar" victory.

"This is what winning looks like," the president said.

Like Mr. Mulvaney, Mr. Trump said Republicans boosted military spending and broke the pattern of matching military spending increases with nondefense boosts. He noted provisions on health care for coal miners and school choice in Washington, D.C., and said he would still get his border wall.

"Make no mistake, we are beginning to build the wall," the president said.

He added that he had denied Democrats the health insurance funding they had sought.

Write to Louise Radnofsky at louise.radnofsky@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 02, 2017 14:32 ET (18:32 GMT)