WASHINGTON ― After two years of failing to get Mexico to pay for a border wall as he had promised, President Donald Trump forced a partial government shutdown at midnight Friday over his insistence that American taxpayers foot the bill instead.
The impulsive, not-really-thought-through move has become the norm in Trump’s presidency. Whether it results in anything close to the billions he had demanded for wall construction is unclear ― and may well be beside the point.
Also unclear is how long the shutdown will last. Trump’s allies in the House added $5.7 billion in wall construction money onto a spending bill that had already cleared the Senate. That additional money remains a non-starter in the Senate, where 60 votes are needed to pass controversial legislation and where there are only 51 Republicans.
Trump, meanwhile, has already begun blaming Democrats for forcing the shutdown, even though he himself caused it by changing his mind at the last minute and insisting that the short-term spending bill moving through Congress include an unspecified amount of money for his wall.
“It’s up to the Democrats. So it’s really the Democrat shutdown,” the president said Friday during an unrelated bill signing ceremony at the White House.
Just 10 days earlier, though, in that same Oval Office, Trump had bragged to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that he would be happy to take the responsibility for a shutdown.
“I’ll tell you what, I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck,” Trump said. “I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it.”
Three-quarters of the federal government has already been funded through next September under spending bills that Trump signed previously. But a handful of major agencies received only temporary funding because of the president’s earlier insistence that Congress start building his border wall, which Democrats refused to go along with.
The last of those funding extensions expired at midnight Friday. Both Trump and his White House had signaled during the first part of the week that he would accept another extension, this time through Feb. 8. By that point, Pelosi will have been sworn in as the new speaker, since the Democratic Party picked up 40 House seats in the midterm elections.