Trump surprises GOP lawmakers with government shutdown threat

The fresh threat came as a surprise to GOP lawmakers, who believed they had persuaded Trump to park his fight over wall funding until after the midterm elections.

Donald Trump is inching closer to a government shutdown after two straight days of threatening Democrats that they'll need to fund his border wall if they want to keep Capitol Hill open in the weeks leading up to the midterm elections.

On Sunday, the U.S. president warned that he “would be willing to ‘shut down’ government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall.”

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On Monday he repeated his call for more funding for the wall: “We must have Border Security, get rid of Chain, Lottery, Catch & Release Sanctuary Cities - go to Merit based Immigration. Protect ICE and Law Enforcement and, of course, keep building, but much faster, THE WALL!”

The fresh threat came as a surprise to GOP lawmakers, who believed they had persuaded Trump to park his fight over wall funding until after the midterm elections, which are now just 99 days away.

The government’s funding is secured until the end of September, after Trump reluctantly signed a spending bill in March.

While this is not the first time the president has threatened to shut down the government over funding for his wall, the timing of this threat is more significant, given that it would fall just weeks before the crucial midterm elections, where Republicans are already facing an uphill battle.

“We’re going to have a challenging midterm anyway, and I don’t see how putting the attention on shutting down the government when you control the government is going to help you,” Republican Rep. Tom Cole told the New York Times.

Trump’s threat did not come with an explicit deadline, and Republican lawmakers are increasingly skeptical that they will be able to deliver the funding Trump is seeking before the end of September.

GOP lawmakers last week believed they had persuaded Trump to park the fight over border wall funding until after the elections. Trump met with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week and was reported to have agreed that funding the wall does not need to be accomplished by the end of the current financing period.

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McConnell reportedly warned Trump a battle over border wall funding could derail the process of approving Trump’s nominee for the vacant Supreme Court seat, Brett Kavanaugh.

Republican lawmakers speaking to Axios said they didn’t think Trump would follow through on his threat to shut down the government a month ahead of November’s midterms.

“I don’t think we’re going to shut down the government,” Rep. Steve Stivers, who is in charge of the committee to elect Republicans to the House, told ABC News’ “This Week.” “You know, I think we’re going to make sure we keep the government open, but we’re going to get better policies on immigration.”

Back in May, Trump suggested “closing up the country for a while” if his wall was not funded, while back in February he relished the prospect of a government closure: “I'd love to see a shutdown,” he said, when attempting to get lawmakers to agree to his immigration plans.

Cover image: Donald Trump boards Air Force One at Morristown Municipal Airport on July 29, 2018 in Morristown, New Jersey after spending the weekend at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images.