Incoming acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on Friday blamed Democratic leaders for refusing to cooperate with President Trump to end an ongoing government shutdown — weeks after the president assumed responsibility for the shutdown himself.
“We need folks to talk with us. We need folks to discuss with us,” Mulvaney, currently the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), told Fox & Friends, the president’s preferred news program.
Mulvaney lamented Democrats’ stubbornness on Trump’s proposed border wall along the southern U.S. border, which the White House has insisted is necessary to keep the country safe, ignoring calls from both Democrats and border state Republicans who say a massive barrier like the one the president has proposed would be ineffective and costly.
“It still strikes me very unusual that the Democrats did not provide a counteroffer to our last discussion. They simply left town,” he continued, referring to Republicans’ proposal of $5 billion in wall funding, which Democrats roundly rejected. “The president is here. The president canceled his plans. Where are [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer, where are [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi? They’re not talking now. They won’t until after the new Congress is sworn in.”
Mulvaney suggested Pelosi specifically was holding back on any negotiations to avoid any appearance of weakness, prior to locking down the party speakership.
“She cannot be seen by her party as being weak negotiating with Donald Trump,” he said. “We fully expect, until she is elected speaker and locks that vote up, we don’t expect to hear from the Democrats. They told us last night they were not countering our last offer.”
Mulvaney’s comments were a stark reversal from the president’s stance earlier in December. At the time, Trump assumed responsibility for any shutdown, saying he would not put the blame on Democrats, even if party leaders did not agree to fund his southern border wall, a key promise of his 2016 campaign.
“If we don’t have border security, we’ll shut down the government. This country needs border security,” Trump said during a tense sit-down with Pelosi (D-CA) and Schumer (D-NY) on December 11.
Speaking directly to Schumer, he added, “You want to know something? I’ll tell you what: I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck. I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down — I’m not going to blame you for it.”
However, in recent days, Trump himself has sought to cast blame for the shutdown on Democrats as well, tweeting on December 21, “The Democrats now own the shutdown!”
We will be forced to close the Southern Border entirely if the Obstructionist Democrats do not give us the money to finish the Wall & also change the ridiculous immigration laws that our Country is saddled with. Hard to believe there was a Congress & President who would approve!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 28, 2018
On Friday, the president piled on, tweeting, “We will be forced to close the Southern Border entirely if the Obstructionist Democrats do not give us the money to finish the Wall & also change the ridiculous immigration laws that our Country is saddled with. Hard to believe there was a Congress & President who would approve!”
According to Politico, both Democrats and Republicans have given up on reaching a compromise to reopen the government until 2019, with members departing Washington this week after bouts of shouting matches. Thursday’s Senate session, the outlet noted, consisted of Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) “setting up next week’s schedule and asking an empty room whether anyone objected.”
Meanwhile, roughly 800,000 government employees have been furloughed and will not receive their paychecks as scheduled this month. The Office of Personnel Management, which handles HR matters for the federal civilian workforce, has since begun issuing official letters to those employees, as it has in the past, advising them on how to deal with creditors, bill collectors, and landlords in the interim.