May 2, 2017

The thinking behind Trump's "shutdown" tweets

Evan Vucci / AP

At 9:01am today President Trump tweeted:

"The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there! We either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51%. Our country needs a good "shutdown" in September to fix mess!"

Behind the tweet: there are two things you need to know about the thinking inside the White House:

1. Trump hates the legislative filibuster. As one senior administration source says: "he's a practical guy...he's not an ideologue." As a private businessman, Trump could never understand when he saw senators like Ted Cruz standing for hours on end reading children's books. Trump saw this as utterly pointless and futile behavior that would never fly in the business world. He doesn't care a bit about congressional traditions and was thrilled when Mitch McConnell used the nuclear option to force through Neil Gorsuch onto the Supreme Court.

2. Trump is flagging the shutdown in September for a very good reason: his aides tell me the current government funding fight was seen internally as something they just needed to "get through."

There was never going to be major victories in the 2017 spending bill; the Democrats had all the leverage and Trump couldn't afford a government shutdown so early in his administration and with healthcare still unresolved. The 2018 spending fight is a different matter, though.

My White House sources tell me this will be the time to fight for real "wins" — like funding the border wall. That will lead to an inevitable standoff with Democrats and possibly a government shutdown.

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