WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump came to office promising that he would produce so much winning that Americans would be sick of it. As he struggles to produce wins, some signs of frustration are starting to appear.
Democrats’ gleeful declarations that they outsmarted Republicans in a battle over a spending bill that avoided a government shutdown drew the ire of the president. Democrats were happy that funding for Trump’s Mexico border wall was not included.
Trump tweeted on Tuesday that maybe a government shutdown would not be so bad and that Republicans should consider changing Senate rules to make it easier to pass spending and other bills without any Democratic support.
“Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess!” he wrote.
His comment frustrated some of his fellow Republicans in Congress, who chafed at the suggestion that the White House could dictate Senate rules, or send a message that a shutdown, which costs the economy millions, was desirable.
“I think it would be a good thing at this point if the iPhone was put in a safe, locked away and maybe returned in four years,” Republican Senator Bob Corker, who was once on the short list to be Trump’s vice president, told reporters.
“That’s just not constructive. Those are the kinds of things that should never happen, and... it’s damaging to our credibility. It’s damaging to trust here within the (Capitol) building,” Corker said.
Trump marked his 100th day in office on Saturday and used last week to argue that he has made major progress in rolling back federal regulations and improving the climate for job creation.
But with his healthcare reform effort flagging, Trump has been unable to get a major piece of legislation through a Congress controlled by his own Republican Party, leaving him without a signature victory.
With Democrats celebrating concessions they extracted in the spending bill, Trump used a Rose Garden ceremony honoring the Air Force Academy’s football team to declare he and Republicans got more from the legislation than might appear.
“After years of partisan bickering and gridlock, this bill is a clear win for the American people,” Trump said.
THREE NEWS BRIEFINGS
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney gave three news briefings to promote Trump gains from the bill, the first on Monday night and the second on Tuesday morning in a conference call for reporters.
The conference call was marred by technical issues at times, with Mulvaney straining to be heard over orchestra music that mysteriously began playing.
“All right,” Mulvaney told reporters at one point. “I’ll try to answer it one more time, and clearly we’re having a lot of background noise here.”
Later, in the White House briefing room, Mulvaney said he understood Trump’s frustration, accusing Democrats of trying to “spike the football” by publicly celebrating the budget deal as a Democratic victory in an effort to make the president look bad after he negotiated in good faith.
He said Democrats were thwarted by Republicans in their attempt to add bailout money for Puerto Rico.
“We’ve got a lot to do between now and September. I don’t anticipate a shutdown in September, but if the Democrats aren’t going to behave any better than they have in the last couple of days, it may be inevitable,” Mulvaney said.
Democrats quickly denounced Trump’s musings about closing the federal government.
“Here we saw Democrats and Republicans working together in the best traditions of the Senate, and the president disparages it in a way that’s destructive,” Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer said.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate would debate the funding bill this week and that most Republicans did not favor a change in the rules to make it easier to pass legislation without Democratic support.
Trump said his fellow Republicans had to acquiesce to Democratic demands in spending bill because the party’s majority was too slim to win the 60 Senate votes needed to advance the legislation without them.
Republicans hold 52 of the Senate’s 100 seats.
“The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there! We either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51%,” Trump wrote on Twitter
Republicans last forced a government closure in 2013 for 17 days. Democrats said Trump would shoulder the blame for any shutdown now.
Additional reporting by David Morgan, Richard Cowan and Patricia Zengerle; Writing by Steve Holland and Susan Heavey; Editing by Tim Ahmann, Chizu Nomiyama, Frances Kerry and Jonathan Oatis
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