Trump Urges GOP Senate to Go Nuclear on Dems, Reopen Government

President Donald Trump urged Senate Republican leaders to use the upper chamber’s “nuclear option” to end the government shutdown — which he said the Democrats are using to put the interests of illegal immigrants “pouring into our nation unchecked” ahead of those of American citizens.

“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 Sunday. “If stalemate continues, Republicans should go to 51% (Nuclear Option) and vote on real, long-term budget, no C.R.s!”

Trump was referring to a Senate rule change that would reduce the number of votes required to end a filibuster from the present 60 to a simple majority. Though rarely used, the nuclear option was last invoked in 2013 by then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and his Democratic colleagues.

A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Sunday that "the Republican conference opposes changing the rules on legislation" for a long-term funding bill, according to The Hill.

McConnell, however, said late Saturday that he "asked for consent to move up a vote on this bipartisan solution and end this craziness," according to Roll Call. The vote would end the Democratic filibuster for the continuing resolution.

The federal government shut down Friday at midnight after only five Democrats joined the majority of Senate Republicans seeking to avoid the shutdown by approving a short-term continuing budget resolution. The effort fell short of the 60-vote threshold.

Led by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, Democrats refused to support the funding bill because it didn't include amnesty for illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Trump rejected a deal Thursday crafted by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) because it included DACA amnesty while rejecting the president's request to end chain migration and an immigration VISA lottery.

The Durbin-Graham bill "didn't address any of our key priorities," Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said Sunday on NBC News' "Meet the Press."

"Not only did it give legal protections to the population that is in the DACA program, but again, the mass amnesty to their parents as well — the people that created the problem to begin with," Cotton said. "[It] didn't give money to build any new border barriers, only to repair past border barriers. It didn't do anything to stop chain migration."

Although Cotton said Senate Republicans "are willing to protect this population that is in the DACA program," he insisted that any deal must include measures to temper the "negative consequences" such an amnesty would create.

Cotton noted Trump and many Senate Republicans "have been consistent" on their immigration priorities since September, when Trump rescinded the DACA program and gave it a March deadline.

"And the problem we have is, for four-and-a-half months the Democrats have not been negotiating over these very real and very honest concerns," Cotton said.

Related: Shutdown: Democratic-Led Filibuster Stops Vote on Funding

But cracks are appearing in the Democratic ranks, as some amnesty advocates have signaled their willingness to compromise on key aspects, including border wall funding. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) said Sunday on ABC News' "This Week" that he would support border wall funding in exchange for DACA amnesty and keeping the government open.

"I think the wall is a monumental waste of taxpayer money. It's to build a monument to stupidity, and it's just idiotic," Gutiérrez said. "Having said that, if that's what it's going to take in order to put 800,000 young men and women in this country — dreamers — and put them in a safe place and put them on a course to full integration in our society, if that's what the hostage-takers of the dreamers, if that's their ransom call, I say pay it." (Dreamers are would-be beneficiaries of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, Act.)

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney urged Democrats on Sunday to continue making these concessions to keep the government open without holding military funding hostage to DACA demands.

"The president wants to resolve DACA. He could've taken it away entirely six months ago and chose to give Congress six months that expires the first week of March to fix it," Mulvaney said on "Fox News Sunday." "But for some reason, the dysfunction specifically with the Senate and Democrats is so dramatic now, it's not working."

"It's almost as if they are so beholden to their left wing that they can't give the president even a victory on keeping the government open," Mulvaney added. "I really do believe that at heart here, there was an interest by some folks in the Democrat Party to deny the president sort of a victory lap of the anniversary of his inauguration, the chance to talk about the success of the tax bill, success of the economy and jobs."

PoliZette writer Kathryn Blackhurst can be reached at kathryn.blackhurst@lifezette.com. Follow her on Twitter.

(photo credit, homepage image: Donald Trump, CC SA-BY 2.0, by Gage Skidmore)

Last Modified: January 21, 2018, 8:40 pm

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