During a meeting at the White House on Tuesday, President Trump said that he would “love to see a shutdown” if Congress couldn’t reach a deal on immigration and border security before the next spending deadline.
“If we don’t change the legislation, if we don’t get rid of these loopholes where killers are allowed to come into our country and continue to kill — gang members, and we’re just talking about MS-13, there are many gang members that we don’t mention — if we don’t change it, let’s have a shutdown. We’ll do a shutdown,” he told reporters. “It’s worth it for our country. I’d love to see a shutdown if we don’t get this stuff taken care of.”
A short while later, he added, “If we don’t straighten out our border, we don’t have a country. Without borders we don’t have a country. So would I shut it down over this issue? Yes. I can’t speak for our great representatives here, but I have a feeling they may agree with me.”
Trump’s comments come as the House of Representatives prepares to hold a vote on a spending bill that would continue funding parts of the federal government through September, and other agencies through March 23.
Congress previously voted to pass a temporary spending measure on January 22, after initially allowing the government to shut down for several days because Democrats and Republicans could not reach consensus on a deal to protect some immigrants from deportation. That continuing resolution funded the government through February 8.
As the Washington Post noted this week, the bill currently before the House would boost funding for the military but leave other departments and agencies “running on fumes until March.” The Senate is not expected to pass the bill.
Trump’s comments on Tuesday stand in stark contrast with his previous remarks on the issue.
The president previous blamed the January shutdown on Democrats, many of whom voted no on a previous stopgap measure because it did not include an adequate fix for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Trump rescinded DACA in September last year, saying that it was up to Congress to find a permanent fix before protections ran out on March 5.
At the time, he claimed that their “no” votes and the subsequent funding lapse threatened the country’s safety.
“Democrats are far more concerned with Illegal Immigrants than they are with our great Military or Safety at our dangerous Southern Border,” he tweeted on January 20, amid the shutdown. “They could have easily made a deal but decided to play Shutdown politics instead. #WeNeedMoreRepublicansIn18 in order to power through mess!”
Days earlier, on January 18, Trump suggested that anyone who allowed the shutdown to happen would be endangering American troops.
“A government shutdown [would] be devastating to our military…something the Dems care very little about!” he tweeted.
Despite previously claiming that he would sign any bipartisan immigration legislation that reached his desk, Trump rejected a deal struck between Senate Democrats and Republicans in early January, saying that it didn’t provide enough funding for his proposed border wall or move far enough toward a “merit-based” immigration system. The deal in question would have provided “Dreamers” — undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children — with a permanent solution and provided increased border security as Trump had requested.
On Monday, the president once again knocked down a bipartisan immigration proposal by Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Chris Coons (D-DE) that would have shielded Dreamers from deportation while simultaneously strengthening border security.
“Any deal on DACA that does not include STRONG border security and the desperately needed WALL is a total waste of time,” he tweeted. “March 5th is rapidly approaching and the Dems seem not to care about DACA. Make a deal!”
Trump has argued in favor of government shutdowns in the past, tweeting in May last year the the country “need[ed] a good ‘shutdown’ … to fix” gridlock on Capitol Hill. In 2013, he claimed that allowing the government to shut down was less concerning than lawmakers had suggested, tweeting that September, “All essential services continue. Don’t believe lies.”
UPDATE, 4:30 p.m.: In a statement to reporters on Tuesday afternoon, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that President Trump “isn’t looking for” a shutdown, despite the president saying he would “love to see a shutdown” just hours earlier.
“The only people that have caused a shutdown are the Democrats,” Sanders said.