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President Trump is finding himself increasingly isolated less than a week ahead of a potential government shutdown, as even members of his own party admit that he has backed himself into a corner with his demands for $5 billion in funding for a wall on the Mexican border.
“Everybody is looking to him for a signal about what he wants to do, and so far it’s not clear,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said of the president.
Few Republicans will criticize Trump on the record, but behind the scenes there is frustration that he has weakened the GOP’s negotiating position with Democrats. There is also a sense that Trump might not be worried about the fallout for his party if his own supporters delight in his fighting with Democrats.
“Trump will get the blame, but he won’t care,” one GOP lawmaker told The Hill. “And the base will love him for it.”
Trump’s declaration last week that he would be “proud” to shut down the government to secure $5 billion for his border wall emboldened Democrats.
They say they will only agree to measures that extends last year’s funding level, which would provide $1.6 billion for border security, including $1.3 billion for pedestrian fencing.
Rep.. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the presumed next Speaker, publicly challenged Trump on whether Republicans could muster enough votes to pass such a bill in the House.
“You won’t win,” she told him at an extraordinary televised Oval Office meeting on Tuesday alongside Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday.
The House GOP’s decision to adjourn until Wednesday night, just two days ahead of the shutdown deadline, seemed to indicate that she was correct, though top Republicans continue to insist that they may bring the bill to a vote next week, and cautioned members that they should be prepared to return to Washington early.
While Republicans dutifully blame Democrats, most seem to agree that, were it not for Trump, there would be little trouble keeping the government open.
If he were to give the go ahead to compromise, they say Congress would be able to pass appropriation measures for the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies that would keep the government open.
“The six bills we have are basically written and read out, ready to go, and with this one it’s only a portion of it that’s in dispute, so when the people who disagree come to an agreement, we can move,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Ok.), an appropriator.
Republicans have also made clear that they oppose shutting down the government.
“One thing I think is pretty clear no matter who precipitates the government shutdown is the American people don’t like it,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has been key to passing many of Trump’s key accomplishments, this week.
“I don’t think anybody wants a shut down,” added Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.)
Cole warned that “you will lose a shutdown fight if you start it.”
Since Trump and Democrats laid down their lines at Tuesday’s explosive oval office meet neither side has budged. Democrats, naturally, blame the President.
“We’ve agreed to 99.9 percent. We disagree on the wall, but they want to shut down the government,” said Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told The Hill. “And we thought the Mexicans were going to pay for it,” he added.
“If it were up to the Senate we could get all the appropriations bills done by Friday,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “The difficult thing is that the experience has been when you make an agreement with President Trump, he thinks of something else two days later and changes his mind.”
Trump also seems to lack public support on the matter, according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll published Tuesday, which found that 57 percent of Americans wanted the president to avoid a shutdown and compromise on the wall.
But the sentiment was different among Trump’s base, which has often been more important in his decision-making. The poll found that 65 percent of Republicans did not want Trump to compromise.
Trump has tried to throw the blame back at Democrats, tweeting a video Thursday night accusing them of hypocrisy on border security.
“Let’s not do a shutdown, Democrats – do what’s right for the American People!” he wrote.
So far, the best prospects to avoid a shutdown that would affect 800,000 federal workers around the country seem to be short stopgap measures to push the fight until after Christmas or into the New Year.
“It depends, really, on what the president would be willing to consider,” Cornyn said.