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Trump Calls For Government 'Shutdown' After Frustration Over Spending Bill

May 2, 2017
Originally published on May 2, 2017 6:18 pm
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

The House is set to vote tomorrow on a funding bill to keep the government open and operating for the next five months. But on Twitter this morning, President Trump looked ahead to the next funding fight and called for a government shutdown in September to fix the system. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith reports on a very strange day of White House spin on spending.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: For the third time in less than 24 hours, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney briefed reporters on the government funding bill, this time in place of the usual daily press briefing.

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MICK MULVANEY: Since the Democrats have raised the issue and tried to cast this as Democrat victory, I think it's important today and only fair to show you what's really in the bill and how the president actually cut a tremendous deal for the American people.

KEITH: Three hours earlier, he made the same case in a hastily arranged conference call, though the Q&A was cut short when someone put their phone on hold.

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MULVANEY: Oh. All right, let's try this. Who would like to ask a question? This is going to be a disaster.

KEITH: Earlier in the morning, President Trump made his feelings known in a series of tweets. He bemoaned the need for Democratic votes in the Senate to pass a spending bill, suggesting a change in Senate rules to reduce the power of the minority party. And he concluded with this. Quote, "our country needs a good shutdown in September to fix mess" - exclamation point. Mulvaney was asked repeatedly to explain why the president would call for a government shutdown and what a good shutdown even means.

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MULVANEY: That's a good discussion to have in September. I think the president is frustrated with the fact that he negotiated in good faith with the Democrats, and they went out to try and spike the football and make him look bad.

KEITH: No president in recent memory has openly called for a government shutdown. They are disruptive, expensive and wildly unpopular. But back to the current budget deal, President Trump wasn't content to let Mulvaney's briefings stand on their own. So he turned a trophy ceremony for the Air Force Academy football team into a platform for defending the budget deal.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This week, our Republican team had its own victory under the radar.

KEITH: Trump talked up an increase in defense spending built into the bill.

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TRUMP: And we didn't do any touting like the Democrats did, by the way. Not only did we achieve this massive and badly needed increase in defense, but we did so without having to put in place an equal increase in non-defense spending.

KEITH: This was the single largest win for Republicans in the bill even though the defense spending increase isn't nearly as large as the president had wanted. Trump tried to get money for building his border wall, but instead, this legislation specifically prevents new wall construction. That didn't stop Trump from spinning it as a win.

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TRUMP: We have more money now for the border than we've gotten in 10 years. The Democrats didn't tell you that.

(APPLAUSE)

KEITH: But even some conservatives are saying the president got a bad deal. Here's Republican Senator from South Carolina Lindsey Graham on CNN.

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LINDSEY GRAHAM: I think the...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Why?

GRAHAM: ...Democrats cleaned our clock. I think that, you know - that there are things in this bill that I just don't understand. This was not winning from the Republican point of view.

KEITH: All of this sets up a potentially more contentious budget fight in September when the president and Republicans will be looking for a more decisive win. Tamara Keith, NPR News, the White House.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOUR TET SONG, "AS SERIOUS AS YOUR LIFE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.