Republicans lament Trump’s handling of the shutdown
Friday’s rapid-fire turn of events that led President Donald Trump to cave on his demand for money for his long promised border wall in exchange for reopening the government had a number of Republicans publicly and privately complaining about the President’s handling of the shutdown, which went on for a record 35 days.
“I don’t believe that shutdowns are ever justified — and I wish this never happened,” Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins told CNN when asked if Trump handled the matter well. “This caused real harm to federal employees … and to our economy at large.”
Earlier Friday, Trump capitulated on his demand for $5.7 billion for his campaign promise of a border wall, a stance that led to the longest federal government shutdown in US history. Pressure had mounted against the President within his own party. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke with Trump twice Thursday — and Trump made the decision late Thursday that he wanted the shutdown to end, according to a source familiar with the conversations.
The first call came after a contentious Senate GOP lunch, in which, Republican senators vented frustration at Vice President Mike Pence about the lack of strategy to get out of the shutdown. McConnell told Trump that it was unclear how much longer he could get GOP senators to hold the line — especially if there were another round of votes to end the shutdown.
A few hours later, Trump called McConnell back with a new perspective. Trump made clear he wanted the shutdown to end, which led to the deal that was approved by Congress on Friday.
McConnell took to the Senate floor as the chamber voted Friday to reopen the government for three weeks. He flashed a quick smile at reporters as he walked off the floor to his office following the resolution’s passage. When asked if anything good came out of this episode, he said, “Well, we got the government open today.”
Funding for about 25% of the government expired on December 22, leading to hundreds of thousands of federal employees to go on furlough or to work without pay — as well as the shuttering of parks, long security lines and grounding planes at the airports and a raft of other side effects.
Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, said that shutting down the government is never worth it.
“I don’t like shutdowns at all,” Portman said. “I don’t think they are ever worth it. But I’m glad we are where are,” saying that there is now a structure to cut a deal over immigration while negotiations continue, calling it an “olive branch” from Trump.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and a close ally of the President, said in the moments immediately following Trump’s announcement that he believes the shutdown forced progress that would not have happened otherwise.
Graham said there is “room to criticize” everyone involved, from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the President to Graham himself.
“I think Nancy Pelosi should’ve handled it differently,” he said. “I think there’s room to criticize the President, me, Nancy Pelosi, all of us.”
“I think (Trump has) won on the argument that we need barriers as part of border security plan,” Graham continued. “I think the shutdown is a vehicle to get it; it didn’t work.”
“To those who want to talk about caving, who won or who lost: the question for me is how does this end?” Graham asked, citing that the future of recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program as well as Temporary Protected Status hang in the balance.
Trump still has his vocal supporters following his decision Friday. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, said the President made a “pretty wise move” Friday in his efforts to end the shutdown.
“The President, like all of us, they see what’s happening,” Shelby said. “You got 800,000 people missing another paycheck, at no fault of their own. It could have a hit on our economy. Nobody is going to win out of this. And I think the President realizes and I hope the speaker of the House and (Senate Minority Leader Chuck) Schumer realize that we’ve got to get together and put the American people first and name calling second.”
While Trump left open the option that if a deal isn’t reached in the next three weeks he’ll declare a state of emergency to build his wall, Portman called that option “problematic.”
Graham also warned about the new deadline.
“So, three weeks from now, the only thing I can tell you: we all win, or we all lose.”