Trump Hints At 'Nuclear Option' As Partial Shutdown Enters Second Day
Updated at 10:50 a.m. ET
As the federal government's partial shutdown enters its second day, there are few discernible signs that lawmakers are on track to speedily resolve their standoff.
Instead, the two sides spent Saturday digging in and getting their message out, and President Trump opened Sunday hinting at a "nuclear" solution.
"Great to see how hard Republicans are fighting for our Military and Safety at the Border. The Dems just want illegal immigrants to pour into our nation unchecked," Trump tweeted before 8 a.m. on Sunday. "If stalemate continues, Republicans should go to 51% (Nuclear Option) and vote on real, long term budget, no C.R.'s!"
Trump was hinting at the fact that a government spending bill would need 60 votes to pass the Senate, which would require at least nine Democrats to vote in favor of it. Republicans could theoretically vote to change laws to require just a simple 51-vote majority to pass a spending bill, as they did to get Neil Gorsuch confirmed to the Supreme Court, but lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have long voiced opposition to such an option.
"That would be the end of the Senate as it was originally devised and created going back to our founding fathers," said Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on ABC's This Week on Sunday. "We have to acknowledge a respect for the minority, and that is what the Senate tries to do in its composition and its procedure."
Republicans have continued to reiterate that they will not negotiate on immigration and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program while the government is shut down. And Democrats said a spending deal would also have to protect the immigrants who came to the country illegally as children and have been shielded from deportation by the DACA program.
"What we're facing right now is Democrats taking an absolutely implausible position that says we're going to deny funding to two million troops who are serving our country, tens of thousands of border patrol agents trying to protect our country, over an issue that's not even in this bill," said Marc Short, White House director of legislative affairs, on Sunday's This Week as well. "That is an impossible position on which to negotiate."
On Capitol Hill, rare Saturday sessions in both chambers were characterized by recriminations rather than negotiations, including a procedural fight in the House over the wording on a sign used as a prop during a floor debate.
There were few signs that either side was feeling conciliatory.
In the midst of the stalemate, President Trump's re-election campaign released an ad declaring that "Democrats who stand in our way will be complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants," a stance that did little to improve the negotiating climate. Short defended the ad on Sunday, saying "the reality is that there are safety concerns for our country."
Senate Democrats gave no indication that they have softened their requirement that any deal to re-open the government must come with a side agreement on immigration. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., accused the president of essentially acting in bad faith after the two met one-on-one at the White House on Friday.
"What's even more frustrating than President Trump's intransigence is the way he seems amenable to these compromises before completely switching positions and backing off. Negotiating with President Trump is like negotiating with Jell-O," Schumer said Saturday.
Remaining in D.C. because of the shutdown, Trump has had no public appearances or interviews.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., scheduled an early Monday morning vote for a short-term funding plan to keep the government open through Feb. 8. Aside from lasting three weeks instead of four, the bill is virtually identical to the measure that failed very early Saturday to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster just as the midnight deadline to avoid a shutdown passed.
In the House, Republicans approved a procedural measure that will allow GOP leaders to speedily bring a new stopgap measure to the floor if a new spending agreement is reached.
No meaningful votes are likely to take place on Sunday, so lawmakers will likely continue making their cases to the American public via the Sunday talk shows and social media.