Politics

‘Very Possible Shutdown Will Go Beyond the 28th, into the New Congress’

Trump's acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, spoke Sunday

Image Credit: Andrew Burton/Staff/Getty Images / BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/Staff/Getty Images

The partial government shutdown that officially began at midnight on Friday could carry on into the New Year, Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the current acting White House chief of staff, told host Chris Wallace of “Fox News Sunday.”

“It’s very possible this shutdown will go beyond the 28th [of December] and into the new Congress,” said Mulvaney on Sunday morning.

The first session of 116th Congress, in which Democrats will control the House, convenes Jan. 3, 2019.

The snag in the budget bill over which Republicans and Democrats are battling involves funding for President Trump’s promised wall along the southern border.

On the floor of the Senate on Saturday, Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) articulated his party’s unvarnished position: “If you want to open the government, you must abandon the wall. Plain and simple.”

Trump has rejected the Democrats’ offers of significantly less than the $5.7 billion he is requesting to fund the wall, which actually resembles more of a tall, steel and slatted picket fence.

“They’re moving in the wrong direction,” said Mulvaney of the Dems’ initial offer of $1.6 billion two weeks ago to a more recent offer of $1.3 billion — both of which fall far short of the president’s request.

The physical barrier between the U.S. and Mexico, as Trump explained in a tweet on Friday, need not be a solid mass of concrete. Instead, he is proposing vertical, spike-topped steel slats, which he says will be “effective while at the same time beautiful!”

Mulvaney contends that the Democrats’ refusal to cut a reasonable deal before the new Congress convenes has “an implication here for Nancy Pelosi’s speakership.”

“[Pelosi of California] is now in that unfortunate position of being beholden to her Left wing, to where she cannot be seen as agreeing with the president on anything until after she’s speaker.”

“I’m not going to tell you what our bottom line is,” said Mulvaney, in answer to Wallace’s question about whether there may be some wiggle room for negotiations in the level of funding for the barrier.

Mulvaney did offer a hint, though. He said the Republicans’ counter offer on Saturday was somewhere between the Democrats’ $1.3 billion offer and Trump’s roughly $5 billion ask.

“We moved” away from “the $5 [billion],” said Mulvaney. “We hope they move up from their $1.3,” he added, suggesting the president is willing to deal.

“The Senate Democrats have the ability right now to open the government and agree to the deal,” said Mulvaney, who also added that Trump is “proud” to engage in the fight to fulfill his campaign promise of building a border security wall.

“No one is working without getting paid,” Mulvaney clarified, noting that paychecks will go out on the 28th for those impacted by the partial government shutdown in the face of the wall funding negotiations.

Though the shutdown technically began Friday at midnight, for most practical purposes it kicks in on Wednesday, Mulvaney explained, since few government operations take place on Sunday. And both Monday and Tuesday — Christmas Eve and Christmas Day — are federal holidays.

The next pay period that could be impacted by the shutdown is January 11.

Metaphorically changing hats from his OMB role to his role as acting White House chief of staff, Mulvaney tackled another big story of the week: Defense Secretary James Mattis’ resignation on Thursday, stemming from a disagreement with Trump’s newly announced policy of withdrawing troops from Syria and drawing down in Afghanistan.

“It’s not a surprise to anybody, because it’s exactly what the president said he was going to do,” Mulvaney said about Trump’s move to bring the troops home.

Mulvaney added of Mattis’ resignation that a misalignment on policy is the “right reason to leave.”

“We recognize the fact that this is unpopular within the Beltway, and we recognize the fact that it’s unpopular within the Defense Department,” said Mulvaney, adding, “It’s very popular with ordinary, American people.”

“I think the relationship between [President Trump and General Mattis] had been fraying. I think the president no longer relied on Mattis to be able to deliver the president’s vision.”

“We recognize the fact that this is unpopular within the Beltway, and we recognize the fact that it’s unpopular within the Defense Department,” said Mulvaney, adding, “It’s very popular with ordinary, American people.”

“The decision is [President Trump’s],” Mulvaney said.

“Believe me, he sees information from all sides … And he makes the final decision. The fact that his decision is not popular with some people is more their problem than his.”

Trump, in a pair of tweets Sunday morning, addressed both the Mattis resignation and the “slow and highly coordinated pullout of U.S. troops” from Syria.

Related: Paul Gives Spirited Defense of Troop Withdrawal Plans

In his resignation letter, Mattis had made his resignation effective Feb. 28, 2019, “a date that should allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed.”

On Sunday morning, Trump announced that Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan would assume the title of acting secretary of defense at the start of the New Year.

In a second tweet, Trump said he had been in touch with President Erdogan of Turkey and that they discussed Trump’s plans to withdraw from Syria — a country with which Turkey is deeply involved.

“After many years they [American troops] are coming home,” the president said in part in the tweet.

“This is what having a president who is non-traditional, who is a different kind of president, looks like,” said Mulvaney, when Wallace asked if the president understands the “growing concern that his presidency is in crisis.”

“He’s not going to be an ordinary president, and that’s not what people wanted when they elected him,” Mulvaney said, warning that it likely will be a “rocky road,” though, since “the president is willing to mix it up to change Washington to benefit folks back home.”

Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and regular contributor to LifeZette.

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