WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he would “love” to see another government shutdown even though Senate leaders said they were close to an agreement on a spending bill to boost funding for defense and domestic programs.
With a deadline midnight Thursday to fund the government, Trump said he would welcome a second shutdown in less than a month if Democrats don’t agree to his immigration priorities: building a wall and ending family reunification policies and the visa lottery.
“I’d love to see a shutdown if we can’t get this stuff taken care of,” Trump said at a White House meeting focused on cracking down on the notorious MS-13 gang. “If we have to shut it down because the Democrats don’t want safety — let’s shut it down.”
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) reported progress in their talks and expressed optimism they would reach a deal to keep government agencies open and on a broader budget deal that lifts the caps on amounts that could be spent on both defense and nondefense programs.
The Republican-controlled House passed a 515-page stopgap bill on a largely party-line 245 to 182 vote Tuesday evening to keep government open until March 23. It includes money for the military for a year and community health centers for two years, and shifts Medicare funds.
The House bill now goes to the Senate. It is expected to end up as a place-holder for the broader legislation McConnell and Schumer said they are negotiating, forcing the House to conduct a vote on the Senate measure in the next two days to avoid a shutdown.
Senate Democrats won’t support the current House stop-gap measure which adds funding for the Pentagon to six weeks of government funding, said Schumer, who is working with McConnell on a $300 billion, two-year package to boost defense and domestic spending.
“Senator Schumer and I had a good meeting this morning about a caps deal and the other deals we’ve been discussing for some months now,” McConnell said after the Senate caucus lunches. “I’m optimistic that very soon we’re going to be able to reach an agreement.”
Schumer said the agreement would include an increase for Democrats’ priorities in domestic programs, such as addressing the opioid crisis and broadband infrastructure, and Republicans’ demands for a boost in military spending.
“We’re making real progress on a spending deal,” Schumer said. “I am hopeful we can come to an agreement, and an agreement very soon.”
Asked about Trump’s comment on the shutdown, Schumer said, “We had one Trump shutdown. Nobody wants another except him.”
The two-year deal would lift spending caps imposed by a failed 2011 budget deal, according to The Associated Press. Republicans have pushed for defense hikes of $80 billion a year and have offered Democrats $60 billion a year for nondefense programs.
The deal also could include $80 billion to $90 billion in hurricane disaster aid for Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, health care funding, and money for the border security plan.
Once Congress funds the government — if it does — McConnell said he would keep his promise to bring up legislation to address immigration and specifically a fix for the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program that Trump ordered to expire on March 5.
January’s three-day shutdown came about after Democrats refused to back a spending bill until Congress addressed DACA. An order Trump issued in September leaves uncertainty for the 690,000 immigrants who were brought here illegally as children that DACA protects from deportation.
McConnell said he would structure a fair debate and votes on the several bills being negotiated by different bipartisan and Republican groups. Senate Republicans control with 51 votes but the legislation will need 60 votes to pass.
“There is no secret plan here to try to push this in any direction. And the Senate is going to work its will. And I hope that we will end up passing something,” McConnell said. “And in the Senate, on those rare occasions when we have those kind of open debates, whoever gets to 60 wins.”