WASHINGTON U.S. President Donald Trump came to office promising that he would produce so much winning that Americans would be sick of it. As he struggles to produce wins, some signs of frustration are starting to appear.
Democrats’ gleeful declarations that they outsmarted Republicans in a battle over a spending bill that avoided a government shutdown drew the ire of the president. Democrats were happy that funding for Trump’s Mexico border wall was not included.
Trump tweeted on Tuesday that maybe a government shutdown would not be so bad and that Republicans should consider changing Senate rules to make it easier to pass spending and other bills without any Democratic support.
“Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess!” he wrote.
Trump marked his 100th day in office on Saturday and used last week to argue that he has made major progress in rolling back federal regulations and improving the climate for job creation.
But with his healthcare reform effort flagging, Trump has been unable to get a major piece of legislation through a U.S. Congress controlled by his own Republican Party, leaving him without a signature victory.
With Democrats celebrating concessions they extracted over the spending bill, Trump used a Rose Garden ceremony to honour the Air Force Academy’s football team on Tuesday to declare he and Republicans got more from the legislation than might appear.
“After years of partisan bickering and gridlock, this bill is a clear win for the American people,” Trump said.
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney gave three news briefings to promote Trump gains from the bill, the first on Monday night and the second on Tuesday morning in a conference call for reporters.
The conference call was marred by technical issues at times, with Mulvaney straining to be heard over the recorded sound of orchestra music that mysteriously began playing.
“All right,” Mulvaney told reporters at one point. “I’ll try to answer it one more time, and clearly we’re having a lot of background noise here.”
Later, in the White House briefing room, Mulvaney said he understood Trump’s frustration, accusing Democrats of trying to “spike the football” by publicly celebrating the budget deal as a Democratic victory in an effort to make the president look bad after he negotiated in good faith.
He said Democrats were thwarted by Republicans in their attempt to add bailout money for Puerto Rico.
“We’ve got a lot to do between now and September. I don’t anticipate a shutdown in September, but if the Democrats aren’t going to behave any better than they have in the last couple of days, it may be inevitable,” Mulvaney told a news briefing.
Democrats – and some Republicans – quickly denounced Trump’s musings about closing the federal government over the spending fight.
“Here we saw Democrats and Republicans working together in the best traditions of the Senate, and the president disparages it in a way that’s destructive,” Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer said.
Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, told reporters: “I just don’t agree.”
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said the government funding bill would be debated by the full Senate this week and that most Republicans did not favour a change in the rules to make it easier to pass legislation without Democratic support.
Trump said his fellow Republicans had to acquiesce to Democratic demands in the government spending bill negotiated this week because the party’s majority was too slim to win the 60 Senate votes that would have been needed if Democrats had chosen to block the legislation with a filibuster.
Republicans hold 52 seats in the 100-seat U.S. Senate.
“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%,” Trump wrote on Twitter
Both parties signed off on the spending bill to fund the federal government through September to avert a government shutdown, with Republicans and Democrats both claiming some political victories.
Republicans last forced a government closure in 2013 for 17 days. Democrats said Trump would shoulder the blame for any shutdown now.
(Additional reporting by David Morgan and Richard Cowan; Writing by Steve Holland and Susan Heavey; Editing by Tim Ahmann, Chizu Nomiyama, Frances Kerry and Jonathan Oatis)