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Trump raises prospect of government shutdown to leverage better budget for GOP in fall

In this April 28, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump speaks in Atlanta

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Tuesday raised the spectre of a government shutdown in September or an immediate end to filibusters in the Senate so that he might gain more leverage in the next round of budget talks.

Trump’s comments on Twitter came in the wake of a deal with Democrats to keep the government open past Friday that some fellow Republicans have criticized as too generous to the minority party.

Although Trump got a significant increase in military spending and other victories, Democrats also successfully secured several priorities and included language preventing Trump from spending money on a key issue: construction of a border wall.

“The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there!” Trump tweeted. ” 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!”

Trump’s reference to 51 percent means an end to the filibuster in the Senate. Under current rules, a bill needs 60 votes to pass in a chamber with 52 Republicans.

To secure the confirmation of Neil M. Gorsuch, Republican leaders changed the rules on Supreme Court nominees to require only 51 votes – a simple majority.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he has no plans to change the threshold for legislation.

At a White House briefing for reporters later Tuesday morning, Office of Budget and Management Director Mick Mulvaney said that one of the wins for Trump in the just-concluded round of budget negotiations was keeping the government open.

“They wanted a shutdown,” Mulvaney said of Democrats. “They wanted to make this president look like he couldn’t govern.”

Asked about Trump’s tweets, however, Mulvaney said the president had a “defensible position.”

Democrats on Capitol Hill pounced on Trump’s tweets, calling them irresponsible.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said he was “deeply disappointed” by Trump tweeting about a “shutdown,” arguing that the spending bill was the result of bipartisan negotiations.

“It is truly a shame that the president is degrading it because he didn’t get 100 percent of what he wanted,” said Schumer. He went on to quote a Rolling Stones song to make his point, adding, “You can’t always get what you want.”

In a statement, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said that the 2013 government shutdown was “a devastating blow to economic growth, amounting to an estimated $1.5 billion lost for each of the 16 days of the shutdown.”

“I hope the president does not seriously wish to have the consequences of a government shutdown resting squarely on his shoulders,” Leahy said.

Meanwhile, when asked Tuesday morning about Trump’s tweets, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan began with a shrug and a smile: “How many times have I had this, ‘Do you agree with the tweet this morning?’”

“Look, we’ve got a long ways to go between now and September, but I share the president’s frustration,” Ryan said. “What a lot of people in America don’t realize is appropriations bills, they take 60 votes to pass. They can be filibustered. So, all appropriations bills therefore have to be bipartisan because Democrats can always filibuster an appropriations bill. Having said all that, I feel very good about the wins that we got with the administration in this bill.”

The Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan and Ed O’Keefe contributed to this report