Saturday 21 October 2017

Donald Trump hails spending deal as victory after condemning Senate 'mess'

Donald Trump accused Senate Democrats of seeking a shutdown and obstructing Republicans during budget negotiations (AP)
Donald Trump accused Senate Democrats of seeking a shutdown and obstructing Republicans during budget negotiations (AP)

Donald Trump has tweeted that the US government "needs a good shutdown" in September to fix a "mess" in the Senate, signalling his displeasure with a temporary spending Bill that Republican congressional leaders - and the president himself - are praising as a major accomplishment.

On Twitter and then in a White House ceremony, Mr Trump issued contradictory statements ahead of key votes in Congress on the budget Bill to keep the government running into autumn.

After advocating for a future shutdown on Twitter, he hailed the budget agreement as a boost for the military and border security.

"This is what winning looks like," he said during a ceremony honouring the Air Force Academy football team.

He said: "Our Republican team had its own victory - under the radar," and called the Bill "a clear win for the American people".

Mr Trump's embrace of a potential government shutdown came days after he accused Senate Democrats of seeking such an outcome and obstructing majority Republicans during recent budget negotiations.

Politicians announced on Sunday they had reached an agreement to avoid a shutdown until October 1 - a deal that does not include several provisions sought by Mr Trump, including money for a border wall.

It also came at the start of a week in which the House is considering a possible vote on a healthcare overhaul that would repeal and replace Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.

Congress is expected to vote this week on the 1.1 trillion US dollar (£850 billion) spending Bill.

After Mr Trump's tweets, House Speaker Paul Ryan defended the budget plan, telling reporters: "No longer will our military be held hostage for domestic spending."

He said the spending package was an "important first step in the right direction" that included a "big down payment" on border security and the military.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said the funding Bill is the product of bipartisan negotiations, and that it "delivers some important conservative wins, including critical steps forward on defence and border security".

The White House on Monday had praised the deal as a win for the nation's military, health benefits for coal miners and other Trump priorities, a message that the president reiterated in the Rose Garden on Tuesday.

But he appeared to indicate unhappiness with the budget plan when he kicked off the day by taking to Twitter. "The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there!"

He added: "We either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51 (percent). Our country needs a good 'shutdown' in September to fix mess!"

That contradicted Mr Trump's message less than a week ago.

Last Thursday, he had tweeted that Democrats were threatening to close national parks as part of the negotiations "and shut down the government. Terrible!".

He also tweeted at the time that he had promised to "rebuild our military and secure our border. Democrats want to shut down the government. Politics!".

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney also praised the budget deal in a conference call with reporters. Asked to explain Mr Trump's advocacy for a shutdown, he said: "Right now I'm not worried about September, I'm worried about this deal that's in front of us.

"I think the president's tweet was that we might need a shutdown at some point to drive home that this place, that Washington needs to be fixed. I think that's a defensible position, one we'll deal with in September. The truth of the matter though is now we've averted a government shutdown in a way that allows the president to fund his priorities."

AP

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