Trump flirts with government shutdown that Republicans are racing to avoid

Published: 9/5/2018 3:34:40 PM

President Donald Trump is asking advisers whether it would be good politics to provoke an October government shutdown fight over money for his border wall, even though Republicans in Congress say a closure before the midterm elections in November would backfire.

Republican leaders thought they had persuaded Trump weeks ago to delay any such confrontation until later in the year, but the president raised the prospect of an earlier showdown in conversations in recent days with at least three aides and outside advisers, according to people familiar with the matter.

Trump has long said a “good shutdown” may be needed to get his full $23 billion in funds for a border wall. House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and other conservative lawmakers have told the president in recent weeks that a shutdown before the election is a bad idea, according to another person familiar with the matter.

With Democrats threatening to end the GOP majority in the House and several Senate seats for both parties in play in November, Republicans see a smoother government funding process as a way to show voters they can govern. Along the way they have ignored Trump’s request for deep cuts to government programs as they seek bipartisan cooperation.

In an interview with the Daily Caller published Wednesday, Trump backed away from a shutdown. He said: “I don’t see even myself or anybody else closing down the country right now.”

Congressional Republicans are trying to complete full-year funding bills for most governmental departments by Oct. 1, while postponing decisions on more contentious homeland security programs until after November, as a way to avoid a shutdown.

“Our leaders have tried in conversations with him to convince him that is the best outcome and makes the most sense,” Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the chamber’s No. 3 Republican, said in an interview Tuesday. “He still occasionally tweets about a government shutdown over the wall funding and that sort of thing, but I think in the end he’s – I believe at least, and his team – of a view that we’re all better off if we can keep the government funded.”

The No. 2 Senate Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, also predicted a shutdown would be avoided. “We’re working hard on it,” he said.

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