US President Donald Trump said the federal government needed a shutdown this autumn to fix what he called a “mess” in the wake of a Congressional deal that ignored key elements of his budget requests.
Taking to Twitter to express his irritation over an agreement sealed on Sunday between the two parties that contained no funding for his border wall, Mr Trump complained that the Republicans had inadequate votes in the Senate to ensure they could get their way on spending.
Either the rules of the Senate should be changed to prevent Democrats filibustering on appropriations legislation or more Republican senators should be elected, he said. The country “needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess”, he added.
Mr Trump’s words point to frustrations over the halting progress Republicans are making in key areas of their agenda. House leaders are this week struggling to gather enough votes for a new healthcare reform package after an earlier attempt collapsed. Last week, Mr Trump rushed out a set of tax proposals as he sought to accelerate efforts to cut taxes on corporations and individuals.
Mr Trump’s apparent willingness to contemplate a closure of large parts of the government to get his way in the next spending round sparked criticism from Democrats. Keith Ellison, a Democratic representative from Minnesota, said the words were the “normalisation of crazy”.
The intervention contrasted sharply with the position of his own budget staff. Last month Mick Mulvaney, Mr Trump’s budget director, said a shutdown was “not a desired end, it is not a tool, it is not something we want to have”.
Last week, the president said he was disappointed that the legislative process was not advancing more quickly, in a sign of irritation over the constraints he is operating under despite unified Republican control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Donald Marron, a fellow at the Urban Institute think-tank, said it was surprising that Mr Trump was reopening the conversation over funding after a deal had been struck, instead of focusing on health and tax reform, which Congressional leaders are now trying to prioritise.
“A shutdown should be no one’s preferred way of governing,” he said.
Congress needs to vote on the funding agreement this week to keep government operations going. Had a deal not been struck between the two parties it would have resulted in the first shutdown of government operations since 2013, when there was a partial closure lasting 16 days.
That was the second-longest such event since 1980, leading to employees being put on unpaid leave for a collective 6.6m days. The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimated that the episode reduced real gross domestic product growth by 0.3 percentage points because of the reduction in hours worked by federal employees.
Senate rules require 60 votes to break a filibuster, a tool that Democrats may seek to use again in September when the next fiscal year’s spending discussions are under way. Mr Trump suggested that the rules should be changed to allow passage of legislation with just 51 per cent of the Senate vote.
That would be a major procedural change, coming in the wake of a decision by the Republicans last month to lower the number of votes needed to approve Neil Gorsuch as Supreme Court justice in a bid to break a Democratic filibuster on the nomination.