President Donald Trump lashed out at Democrats early Saturday in an effort to blame them for the government shutdown that began at midnight, charging that they had orchestrated the crisis to detract from the anniversary of his inauguration.
He wrote on Twitter:
This is the One Year Anniversary of my Presidency and the Democrats wanted to give me a nice present. #DemocratShutdown— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 20, 2018
Even as negotiators on Capitol Hill held out hope of a swift agreement that could end the impasse, Trump said Democrats were prioritizing “illegal immigrants” over American citizens and military personnel, and argued that the only solution to end the dysfunction was to defeat the party in this year’s midterm congressional elections.
The president tweeted:
Democrats are far more concerned with Illegal Immigrants than they are with our great Military or Safety at our dangerous Southern Border. They could have easily made a deal but decided to play Shutdown politics instead. #WeNeedMoreRepublicansIn18 in order to power through mess!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 20, 2018
In fact, it was Trump who opted not to accept a deal that he and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the top Senate Democrat, had hashed out over lunch at the White House on Friday, which would have kept the government open, funded a border wall, and extended legal status to unauthorized immigrants brought to the United States as children. John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, later called Schumer to say the agreement lacked sufficient immigration restrictions.
The president’s Twitter burst came on a morning when Trump had planned to be in Palm Beach, Florida, at his Mar-a-Lago estate, most likely marking his anniversary in office, preparing for a round of golf and awaiting a fundraising soiree that guests had paid at least $100,000 per couple to attend.Instead, Trump started Saturday at the White House, with a blank schedule that contained no indication that he was headed south to warmer temperatures or celebratory events.
Democrats are holding our Military hostage over their desire to have unchecked illegal immigration. Can’t let that happen!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 20, 2018
Traveling to the Middle East, Vice President Mike Pence sought to reassure U.S. service members that the shutdown would be resolved, telling them, “We’ll get this thing figured out in Washington.” But he told reporters traveling with him, “It’s going to take as long as it takes.”
While the administration has argued that it is doing more than Barack Obama’s did in 2013 to soften the impact of a shutdown, Trump and Pence both emphasized that active-duty military personnel would be serving without pay until the government resumes its normal functions.
“These soldiers deserve better,” Pence said at Shannon Airport in Ireland, where Air Force Two was refueling as the vice president made his way to Cairo for the start of a three-day visit to the Middle East.
“You have troops headed down range to Kuwait for six months, and they are anxious about the fact that they aren’t going to get paid right away,” he added, calling the situation “unconscionable.”
“It’s disappointing to every American that Democrats in the Senate would shut down the government when we have troops in harm’s way,” Pence said.
Democrats tried early Saturday to win passage of emergency legislation to ensure that military personnel received pay during the shutdown, but Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, objected. He said he wanted to reach an agreement to fund the entire government “before this becomes necessary.”