Trump pushes Senate Republicans to deploy ‘nuclear option’ to end the government shutdown

Donald Trump President Donald Trump speaks during an event to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, in Washington. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

  • President Donald Trump suggested on Sunday that Senate Republicans deploy the “nuclear option” to open the government after it entered into a partial shutdown on Saturday.
  • Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney defended Trump’s tweet on the Sunday talk shows.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s spokesman said Sunday that Republicans are opposed to using the nuclear option to change Senate rules in order to end the shutdown.

President Donald Trump on Sunday suggested that Senate Republicans invoke what’s known as the “nuclear option” to lower the threshold needed to approve funding for the government.

The government entered into a partial shutdown on midnight Saturday, after the Senate voted against a key procedural step to pass a short-term funding bill on Friday night.

As the shutdown entered its second day, Trump tweeted on Sunday, “Great to see how hard Republicans are fighting for our Military and Safety at the Border. The Dems just want illegal immigrants to pour into our nation unchecked. If stalemate continues, Republicans should go to 51% (Nuclear Option) and vote on real, long term budget, no [continuing resolutions]!”

It is true that the short-term funding bill that advanced in the Senate, called a continuing resolution, needed 60 votes in order to avoid a filibuster. What Trump failed to mention is that there were four Republicans who voted against the measure on Friday and five Democrats who voted for it.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday, following Trump’s tweet, that Republicans in the chamber are opposed to changing Senate rules to end the government shutdown.

Democrats and Republicans have been engaged in a blame game since the shutdown began. Trump tweeted on Saturday that Democrats wanted to give him “a nice present” on the one-year anniversary of his presidency, and added the hashtag, #DemocratShutdown.

Congressional Republicans also laid the blame at Democrats’ feet and named the shutdown after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, calling it the Schumer Shutdown.

Democrats, meanwhile, blamed Trump and the GOP, claiming that the president backed off from a crucial bipartisan deal just hours before the deadline. Democrats also came up with a name for the shutdown: the Trump Shutdown.

Trump aide defends his tweet

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney addressed Trump’s suggestion that McConnell invoke the nuclear option to eliminate the 60-vote threshold that’s currently needed to pass a short-term funding bill on Sunday.

Mulvaney told CNN’s Jake Tapper that while the White House has been “critical of that 60-vote rule since the president took office,” Trump was trying “to shed some light on the fact that if the ordinary rules prevailed — the majority rule in the Senate — the government would be open as of today.”

It is not the first time Trump has advocated for the procedure. Last April, at the president’s repeated urging, Senate Republicans deployed the nuclear option to clear the path for Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s Supreme Court pick, to be confirmed.

Mulvaney said Sunday that the 60-vote rule also addresses the frequent criticism that the GOP should be getting more done when it controls the White House and both chambers of Congress.

“We cannot open the government without Senate Democrat support,” Mulvaney told Tapper. “We don’t have that Senate Democrat support, which is why we are where we are. And one way around it would be to change to 50 votes. Another way around it would be to get some of those Democrats who say back home that they want to work in a bipartisan fashion, they want to work with Republicans, but don’t.”

“There’s a bunch of ways to fix this, we just want it to get fixed,” he added.

This is the first shutdown in US history with one party in control of the House, Senate, and the presidency.

Democrats and Republicans are still deliberating over reaching a deal to end the shutdown. It’s unclear how close the two sides are to a compromise, but little progress seems to have been made.

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