McConnell on Gov't Shutdown: 'I Hope That's Not Where We End Up'

By Susan Jones | December 12, 2018 | 7:05am EST
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters after President Trump took ownership of a looming partial government shutdown. (Photo: Screen capture/C-SPAN)

( - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), speaking to reporters after President Trump's contentious meeting with Democrat leaders, said he hopes to avoid a government shutdown over President Trump's border wall.

"Well I hope that's not where we end up," McConnell said. "I understand it was a rather spirited meeting we all watched, but I'd still like to see a smooth ending here, and I haven't given up hope that that's what we'll have."

McConnell spoke after President Trump told Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi he would shutdown part of the government if he doesn't get $5 billion for his long-promised border wall.

"If we don't get what we want one way or the other, whether it's through you, through a military, through anything you want to call, I will shut down the government, absolutely," Trump told Schumer and Pelosi.

Schumer smiled after hearing what he clearly wanted to hear.

"And I'll tell you what," Trump continued. "I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck, because the people of this country don't want criminals and people that have lots of problems, and drugs pouring into our country.

"So I will take the mantle," Trump said. "I will be the one to shut it down. I'm not going to blame you for it. The last time you shut it down it didn't work. I will take the mantle of shutting down, and I'm going to shut it down for border security."

Democrats want to pass a continuing resolution to keep the Department of Homeland Security funded at current levels for the next year. That means Trump would get around $1.3 billion for a border wall, far less than the $5 billion he's requested.

At his news conference, McConnell referred to the government shutdown in January 2018, which lasted only two days. The dispute in that case was over extending DACA protections to certain illegal immigrants.

"Well look, you remember the shutdown in January, right?" McConnell asked. "The Schumer shutdown over an entirely different issue. One - one thing I think is pretty clear, no matter who precipitates the government shutdown, the American people don't like it, and I hope that will be avoided and that both sides will understand that's not a great way to end what has, in my view, been the most successful Congress right-of-center in decades."

McConnell said Republicans have other items on their agenda this week while discussions continue about how to fund the remaining 25 percent of government:

"We'll be dealing with other matters here in the Senate, the Yemen-Saudi Arabia issue, the Congressional Review Act related to a Treasury regulation, the farm bill, which I just locked in, and other items we're going to continue to press ahead with. (The farm bill later passed the Senate.)

"I've asked both Senator Schumer and our own colleagues to help us get through all of the additional items that we have. Obviously shoehorning criminal justice into that complicates the number of things we have to do between now and the end of the year, but with maximum cooperation, magic things happen at Christmas, and that's what I'm counting on."

With much of the government now funded by regular appropriations bills, a government shutdown would primarily affect the following agencies: Commerce-Justice-Science, Treasury, Homeland Security, Interior-Environment, State-Foreign Operations and Transportation-HUD. Essential employees would still report to work, although their paychecks would be delayed.

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