Trump Says Government Shutdown Could Be Needed to Get Spending Plan Passed

By Louise RadnofskyFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

President Donald Trump said a government shutdown and a change in Senate rules might be needed to get his budget 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.

"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.

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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 runs to the end of the current fiscal year.

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 included a funding boost for the National Institutes of Health, despite Mr. Trump's request to cut NIH funding.

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. He cited, in particular, a block on guaranteed appropriations for payments to health-insurance companies, which Democrats wanted.

Mr. Mulvaney said the White House believed Democrats were trying to drive the president to a shutdown and he had resisted.

"He beat them on that at the very highest level," Mr. Mulvaney said on Tuesday. "The real winners were the American people and the president."

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 one occurred.

"Right now I'm not worried about the shutdown, I'm worried about the deal that's in front of us. But I think that the president's tweet was that we might need a shutdown at some point," Mr. Mulvaney said, before becoming inaudible.

"We've averted a government shutdown in a way that allows the president to fund his priorities, and I think that's the story now...we have a lot of things to do between now and September."

Before Mr. Mulvaney could take additional questions, he was drowned out by a chorus of beeps and a sequence of different strains of hold music. That persisted for several minutes, amid repeated comments of "We're breaking up," before the call was terminated.

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.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 02, 2017 12:46 ET (16:46 GMT)