WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would be willing to shut down the U.S. government over border security issues, reversing a stance he took a day earlier.
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks before signing an executive order on strengthening retirement security in America at Harris Conference Center in Charlotte, NC, U.S., August 31, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Trump made his comments at a meeting with congressional Republican leaders at the White House about the legislative agenda for the next few months, including extending government funding past a Sept. 30 deadline.
He said Congress was making “tremendous progress” on funding, but that he wanted to make good on a promise to fund border security. Trump has repeatedly threatened not to sign funding legislation if Congress fails to include enough money for a wall on the border with Mexico.
Trump reiterated that threat on Wednesday. Responding to a reporter’s question about a possible shutdown, he said: “If it happens, it happens. If it’s about border security, I’m willing to do anything. We have to protect our borders.”
His stance contradicts an interview he gave to the Daily Caller on Tuesday, when he said: “I don’t like the idea of shutdowns.”
“I don’t see even myself or anybody else closing down the country right now,” he was quoted as saying.
Republican lawmakers had welcomed Trump’s move away from a possible government shutdown, saying party leaders wanted “no drama” ahead of the Nov. 6 election to decide whether fellow conservatives keep hold of Congress.
House Republicans, who were leaving a closed-door party meeting held on Capitol Hill before Trump made his remarks, said the message from leadership was aimed at avoiding any crises before the midterm contest, an approach echoed by several Republican senators.
Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, a Republican representative with close ties to the administration, said he did not expect the federal government to shut, and that any decision on the controversial issue of funding border security would likely be delayed.
“I don’t anticipate a shutdown …. before November. I don’t anticipate a shutdown after November. I believe that we’re going to work toward trying to find border security measures that work, hopefully in the first quarter of next year,” Meadows told reporters.
“We were told no drama,” Representative Thomas Massie, a Kentucky conservative, said after the closed-door meeting.
The planned border wall, the Trump administration’s ban on travel from several mostly Muslim countries and other immigration issues loom large as Americans prepare to head to the polls in November.
Trump campaigned heavily on a promise to build a wall that would be paid for by Mexico, which it has refused to do. He has subsequently turned to Congress to seek $25 billion for the project, along with other immigration demands.
Still, lawmakers have not reached a consensus on any immigration steps.
While a few conservatives like Representative Jim Jordan insist the border issue should be dealt with now, others seem resigned to waiting at least until the new Congress takes office in January following the election.
Trump and U.S. lawmakers averted a government shutdown in March after passing a massive $1.3 trillion spending bill to fund the government through Sept. 30.
A shutdown could backfire on Trump if voters blame Republicans for any federal government service disruptions.
“It doesn’t benefit anybody, certainly not Republicans,” Senator Jeff Flake said.
House Republicans said that while they talked about spending bills at their Capitol Hill meeting, there was no explicit discussion of Trump’s wall.
House Speaker Paul Ryan “encouraged everybody to make sure that we get through September without a lot of problems,” Representative Bill Flores said. He added that there was likely to be a continuing resolution approved to fund a small part of government while lawmakers finish their work.
Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Tom Brown