White House slams Democrats, preps for shutdown

With the clock ticking down to a potential government shutdown, the White House on Friday sought to put the spotlight on Democrats.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney and legislative affairs director Marc Short said Friday the administration is readying for a “Schumer shutdown,” putting the blame squarely on Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and his fellow Democrats for obstructing a path to averting the imminent government shutdown.

“It still surprises me that Democrats in the Senate are opposing a bill that they don’t oppose,” Mulvaney said, noting that the funding bill before lawmakers is clean — with no unrelated riders –and that it includes a six-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program that has bipartisan support.

“They don’t oppose anything in the bill but they are opposing the bill,” Mulvaney said. “We don’t want this. We do not want a shutdown.”

Senate Democrats have insisted that as part of the government funding process lawmakers resolve the legal status of the more than 700,000 people brought to the US illegally as children who had been protected under the Obama era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. President Donald Trump ended the program in the fall and there is no deal that the President and enough lawmakers would support to restore those protections before they expire in March.

Three Senate Republicans have publicly said they will not support the continuing resolution, complicating Republicans’ efforts to deflect blame for a potential shutdown.

But Mulvaney and Short deflected questions about whether Trump and Republicans should share some of the blame if the government shuts down, given Republicans control the White House and both chambers of Congress.

“I have to laugh when people say that, ‘Oh, we control the House, the Senate, the White House, why can’t you get this done?’ You know as well as anybody that it takes 60 votes in the Senate to pass an appropriations bill,” Mulvaney said in response to a briefing question from CNN’s Jim Acosta.

“When you only have 51 votes in the Senate then you have to get Democrat support in order to fund the government. So that’s the answer to your question,” he added.

‘Actively working’

Short and Mulvaney also insisted that Trump has been doing all he can to avert a shutdown, working the phones from the White House to lobby lawmakers to get on board and keep the government open.

“The President is actively working right now to prevent a shutdown,” Mulvaney said, though he declined to say which lawmakers Trump spoke with on Friday. “He is actively working to try to get to a deal.”

It was still unclear how the blame for a potential shutdown would shake out, but the White House’s efforts to exculpate the President were at odds with comments Trump made when he was a private citizen in 2013.

“It always happens to be the top. I mean, the problems start from the top and have to get solved from the top,” Trump said on Fox News during the 2013 shutdown, when President Barack Obama was in office. “The President is the leader, and he’s got to get everybody in a room and he’s got to lead.” 

Trump helped secure passage of the continuing resolution in the House on Thursday, pressing the conservative House Freedom Caucus on the phone to support the legislation.

But Trump has also stoked considerable confusion in the halls of Congress as the shutdown deadline fast approached.

On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell publicly deplored that he did not know what kind of funding legislation the President would support and worried that the Senate was “spinning our wheels.”

“I’m looking for something that President Trump supports. And he’s not yet indicated what measure he’s willing to sign,” McConnell said Wednesday.

And then on Thursday, Trump sent Republican lawmakers scurrying when he tweeted that “CHIP should be part of a long term solution, not a 30 Day, or short term, extension” — which is the proposal Republicans put on the table to curry Democratic support.