WASHINGTON — President Trump has canceled a scheduled trip to his Palm Beach resort on Friday as he met with the top Senate Democrat to try to forge a deal to keep the government open past a midnight deadline.
The schedule change underscores the growing sense of urgency as the government’s legal authority to fund many of its activities expires.
The weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort was scheduled to be a bigger spectacle than his usual golf weekends at what he calls the “Winter White House.” Trump had planned to celebrate the one-year anniversary of his presidency with a party and fundraiser.
Trump invited Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to the Oval Office Friday for negotiations. Senate Democrats, who have enough votes to filibuster any bill, are seeking provisions to allow immigrants who came to the United States as children to remain in the country.
The White House is preparing to close government offices if Congress doesn’t pass a new spending bill by the midnight deadline, but says the 2018 version of the government shutdown would inflict less pain on citizens who use government services than the last one.
“We want to make folks understand that it will look very different than it did in past years,” White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said Friday. “The Obama administration weaponized the shutdown in 2013.”
Mulvaney said he is encouraging agencies to transfer funds and use other appropriations in order to remain open.
One example: Mulvaney said national parks would remain open during a shutdown — although the trash wouldn’t be picked up and park police wouldn’t get paid unless Congress passes retroactive legislation.
The Trump administration’s approach, if carried out, would be a reversal from the so-called “Washington Monument” strategy that administrations of both parties have used since shutdowns became more common during the Reagan administration. By closing some of the most popular and visible government services, the administration can put pressure on Congress to compromise.
White House officials say they’re working on that compromise Friday, with President Trump personally making phone calls to Capitol Hill.
But Trump himself clearly sees political advantage in a shutdown for which he could blame Senate Democrats.
Noting that the GOP-controlled House passed a temporary funding bill Thursday night, Trump said that “now Democrats are needed if it is to pass in the Senate — but they want illegal immigration and weak borders. Shutdown coming?”
He added, alluding to the coming elections, “we need more Republican victories in 2018!”
Republicans control the Senate, but fall nine votes short of the 60 they need to avoid a Democratic filibuster.
Government Funding Bill past last night in the House of Representatives. Now Democrats are needed if it is to pass in the Senate – but they want illegal immigration and weak borders. Shutdown coming? We need more Republican victories in 2018!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 19, 2018
Mulvaney put the odds of a government shutdown Friday morning at 50% — up from 30% on Thursday. The Office of Management and Budget is responsible for coordinating and enforcing a shutdown, which would send all non-essential federal workers home unless they’re funded outside the annual appropriations process.
The White House itself, as a constitutional office, would remain largely open for business. But the shutdown spat could affect Trump’s schedule, perhaps canceling a planned trip to Florida.
Trump is scheduled to leave Washington late Friday afternoon for another weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., one that would include a special fundraising dinner that would mark his one-year anniversary in office on Saturday.
On Friday morning, however, the White House put out a statement saying the president will remain in Washington until a government funding measure is passed.
Democrats and some Senate Republicans object to the House-approved spending plan for a variety of reasons.
Many Democrats want it to include authorization of a program designed to block deportation of people who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents. Trump has vowed to end the the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program unless Congress comes up with a legislative fix.
“We would like to keep the government open. What we’d really like the Democrats in the Senate to do is tell us why they don’t like the bill,” Mulvaney said. By including non-spending issues in the negotiations, he said, Democrats are doing the same thing they accused Republicans of when House Republicans refused to pass a spending bill that didn’t include a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Others note that the House spending bill funds the government only up to Feb. 16, and that Congress will simply re-litigate these issues again next month unless they are dealt with now.
Republicans control both the Senate and the House, but Democrats are hopeful of capturing majorities after the November elections. Trump’s latest attack on the Democrats came a day after he visited a congressional district in Pennsylvania that is holding a special House election in March.
If the Senate is unable to pass a spending plan – opponents may have the numbers to filibuster it – parts of the government will shut down at midnight. A shutdown would not affect the military or other essential services.