Trump Officially Ends Shutdown, Earns Praise for Lack of Involvement

I did it! Photo: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

The government shutdown officially ended on Monday night, 69 hours after it began. (Yeah, we all get it.) This afternoon Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced his caucus would support a bill that funds the government through February 8 and extends the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years. In exchange, Democrats get a promise that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will hold a debate and a vote on immigration (and a lot of possibly misplaced outrage from the left).

Eighty-one senators voted to end the shutdown, with eighteen — two Republicans and the rest of the Democratic caucus — opposed. The measure passed easily in the House, by a vote of 266 to 150, with roughly three quarters of Democrats rejecting it. Then President Trump ended the standoff — for three weeks, at least — signing the bill around 9 p.m.

Trump’s reaction to the breakthrough was relatively subdued. In lieu of gloating tweets, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders read a statement.

“I am pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses and are now willing to fund our great military, Border Patrol, first responders, and insurance for vulnerable children,” she said, quoting Trump. “As I’ve always said, once the government is funded, my administration will work toward solving the problem of very unfair, illegal immigration. We will make a long-term deal on immigration if, and only if, it’s good for our country.”

Late on Monday night the White House released a photo of the president signing the bill:

White House aides seemed eager to point out that negotiations were aided by Trump’s restraint.

“One of the things that helped us over the last three days was being as coordinated as we were on our messaging from the White House, the House, and the Senate,” White House legislative director Marc Short told the Washington Post. “Look at the messaging the president did with his tweets — they were very consistent with the Republican Senate messaging, too. The Democrats had locked themselves into a corner without a way out, and as long as we were united in that message, we were going to be fine.”

Trump’s tweets this weekend actually weren’t totally consistent with the GOP’s messaging (he attacked Democrats for prioritizing “services and security for non-citizens” just as Short was telling CNN that Dreamers are “productive” and should be able to stay in the U.S.). But after repeatedly derailing immigration talks in recent weeks, Trump did resist the urge to participate in negotiations.

The Post reports that hours after his unproductive one-on-one meeting with Schumer on Friday, Trump told McConnell that he still wanted to help, and asked who he should call. McConnell outlined a different strategy for the president: do nothing. Trump was impressed.

But McConnell urged the president to sit tight and make the Democrats come to them, this person said. Trump paused, agreed, and then offered McConnell his highest praise: “You are a good negotiator.”

Still, aides and congressional leaders felt the need to keep reminding the president that he wasn’t supposed to talk to lawmakers:

Over the weekend, aides like Mulvaney, Kelly and Short warned Trump to stay out of the fight and let it play out on Capitol Hill.

McConnell and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) also believed that the Democrats were in a politically tricky position, and called Trump multiple times to ensure he remained locked into the approach, Republicans familiar with the discussions said. 

Trump told advisers on several occasions he was listening — even if his instincts were to do otherwise. 

Aides also made sure that the president liked what he saw on TV:

The White House also made sure that senior administration officials, as well as top surrogates, were out on television pushing the president’s message. The strategy helped magnify the White House pitch and ensure that Trump, who spent large portions of the weekend following the shutdown on cable news, would not see negative coverage that made him more inclined to strike a deal with Democrats, White House officials said.

And they gave the president some busy work, letting him dispatch a staffer to investigate something that could have been verified with a quick Google search:

Mulvaney said Trump was so concerned about things remaining open during the shutdown that a staffer went to the Mall when a photo accompanying a news story appeared to show a memorial closed. The office later learned the photo was a stock photo taken in 2013, he said.

How long can we expect the president to keep behaving like a happy and well-rested toddler, rather than a boy who skipped his nap? Probably not very long. Congress still has to come up with an immigration compromise in the next few weeks, and one White House adviser told Politico that they expect Monday’s victory will encourage Trump to get involved agin.

“It’s a foregone conclusion he’s going to escape,” said another White House adviser. “He’s like Houdini. If you keep him in a cage, he’s going to get out.”

Indeed, late on Monday night, Trump offered this final thought on the negotiation process:

Trump Ends Shutdown, Earns Praise for Lack of Involvement