Trump threatens to veto spending bill, risking shutdown
By Michael Hirsh
Trump’s declaration of a possible veto — citing the spending bill’s lack of full funding for his border wall and attention to undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers — comes as many lawmakers who would have to override his rejection or pass a stopgap funding measure are already on the way out of Washington for a two-week recess. The president’s top aides said Thursday he would sign the bill, but his threat was a reminder that only Trump truly knows what the White House is doing at any time.
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Trump’s tweet caught many in the West Wing and on Capitol Hill by surprise, sending them scrambling to determine how serious he is about vetoing the bill, while White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders added a Friday afternoon briefing. Illustrating the degree to which Trump had upended his own staff once again, one West Wing official said on Friday morning that the likelihood of a shutdown is “extremely high.”
There remains hope in the White House that the defense community, including Secretary of Defense James Mattis — who is slated to meet with Trump on Friday — could convince Trump that whatever stopgap spending agreement results from a shutdown threat would not deliver the high level of defense spending provided by the omnibus.
But Trump’s frustration is severe, the West Wing official said. The president has been concerned by conservative outcry on Fox News, about the amount provided for the border wall and interior enforcement and the way in which Amtrak funding is being framed as a victory for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
In fact, both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill had joined White House aides on Thursday in touting gains for both parties in the spending deal, which the Senate approved on a 65-32 vote after midnight on Friday morning.
“Ask Republicans. It’s their problem,” one senior Democratic aide said of the veto tweet. “He’s just trying to get a reaction from Democrats over something that’s demonstrably false.”
But fiscal conservatives in Congress who had opposed the spending package urged Trump to follow through with the veto threat, concerned over the bill’s high price tag bloating the debt.
“Please do, Mr. President. I am just down the street and will bring you a pen. The spending levels without any offsets are grotesque, throwing all of our children under the bus. Totally irresponsible,” tweeted Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee.
Trump's frustrations with the bill were well-known in the White House, but West Wing aides and members of Congress believed they had convinced the president to go along with the measure.
The White House released a statement Thursday saying the administration supports passage of the bill and it declared in a separate statement that the legislation is a "win for the American people."
"Let's cut right to the chase. Is the president going to sign the bill? Yes. Why? Because it funds his priorities," White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told reporters on Thursday, while acknowledging the final product was imperfect.
Heather Caygle contributed to this report.