WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he welcomes a government shutdown if congressional leaders do not agree to a deal to keep the government open later this week.
“I’d love to see a shutdown if we don’t get this stuff taken care of,” he said during a roundtable with legislators and law enforcement officials on immigration, adding that Democrats need to agree to his demands for immigration restrictions.
“It’s worth it for our country,” he said. “If we have to shut it down because the Democrats don’t want safety, and — unrelated but still related — they don’t want to take care of military, then shut it down. We’ll go with another shutdown.”
Lawmakers in both parties have said they hope to avoid another government shutdown like the one that occurred after talks broke down last month. Without an agreement to extend funding, the government would shut down Friday.
At the same time, lawmakers are working on a deal to help young undocumented immigrants, which Trump insists must include border security funding and cuts to legal immigration, something both Democrats and some Republicans have said is a non-starter.
But the White House has not typically taken the position that the debate should be tied to government funding. In January, the White House bashed Senate Democrats for opposing a government spending bill when it left out immigration measures. This time around, it’s not clear Democrats are willing to make the same move ― but Trump is now suggesting he will.
Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), who was attending the roundtable and represents a district that is home to many government workers, told Trump: “We don’t need a government shutdown over this. I think both sides have learned that the shutdown was bad.” She added that she believes there is bipartisan support for a deal.
“Barbara, we are not getting the support of the Democrats. I mean, you can say what you want. We are not getting the support of the Democrats,” Trump said in response. “They are not supporting us.”
Among Trump’s demands is his signature campaign promise: a border wall.
“We need the wall. We’re going to get the wall,” he said Tuesday.
Later Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders clarified Trump’s comments, saying that he wants Democrats “to do their jobs.”
“We are not advocating for the shutdown,” she said.
On Monday, Trump blamed Democrats for not coming up with a legislative solution for so-called Dreamers. In a tweet, he claimed that Democrats “seem not to care about DACA,” referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Trump ended.
Democrats and Republicans have proposed multiple bipartisan bills to help Dreamers, often paired with border security measures. The White House has rejected all of them and says it wants its own framework, even though it faces bipartisan opposition.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that the upper chamber will move forward with discussing immigration only after government funding has been approved. He said it will be an open debate to determine what can get past the 60-vote threshold for passage.
“Whoever gets to 60 wins,” McConnell told reporters.
DACA recipients are set to begin losing their two-year work permits and deportation protections in greater numbers on March 6 if Congress does nothing due to the way Trump rescinded the program. They are currently able to apply for renewal under a court order ― one the administration is fighting ― but it typically takes months for applications to be processed.
White House chief of staff John Kelly said earlier on Tuesday that he does not believe Trump can “extend” that March “deadline,” and would advise the president against signing a bill to temporarily maintain DACA.
This post has been updated with comment from Sanders and more background on the immigration negotiations. Elise Foley contributed reporting.