If the Republican-controlled Congress and President Trump can’t figure out by the end of this week how to continue funding the government, Republicans will have led us into the second government shutdown in just four years. Trump has said on multiple occasions that he wants a shutdown. But he is not only angling now to shut down the government; he was also a major proponent of the last Republican shutdown in 2013.
Four years ago, congressional Republicans controlled the U.S. House of Representatives and forced a government shutdown. At the time, Donald Trump was their greatest champion, egging them on through social media and on television. Along with Senator Ted Cruz, Trump pushed congressional Republicans to charge headfirst into a shutdown, telling them that they “should not be afraid of a government shutdown” and should instead be “afraid of not defunding ObamaCare.”
He congratulated then-Speaker Boehner for “standing strong and tying government shutdown to defunding ObamaCare.”
In the run-up to the shutdown, Trump dismissed as “lies” the idea that a government shutdown would affect important government functions.
And after the first day of the shutdown, Trump tweeted that stocks were up so “[m]arkets like being left alone for a day.”
During the shutdown, he repeatedly told Republicans that they had an extremely strong hand and that if they remained united in shutting down the government they could “win” and prevent implementation of Obamacare.
Appearing with Larry King in October 2013, Trump echoed the point saying that Republicans could only claim “victory” if 100% of them said clearly that they were shutting down the government and keeping it shut down.
Although he lamented the barricades at the World War II Memorial and blasted the government for delaying death benefits to the family members of servicemembers killed in action, Trump largely dismissed the consequences of the shutdown. One week in he noted that the furloughing of “41% of nondefense federal workers” showed that there was “[r]oom for cuts.”
Of course, this was ill-informed, as all federal employees ultimately were paid for the time they were blocked from working. The shutdown wasted taxpayer dollars while federal workers were prevented from providing vital services. It also cost the economy more than $20 billion and decreased GDP by up to 0.5%.
Trump also used his social media platform to call out Sen. John McCain and “‘Moderate’ Repubs” who viewed the government shutdown as bad politics and bad policy.
When congressional Republicans began to meet with President Obama and started to lay the foundation for cleaning up the disaster they had created, Donald Trump was the person who attacked them for folding.
Speaking with Piers Morgan about reports that Speaker Boehner was reengaging with President Obama to end the shutdown, Trump blasted him, saying, “If the Republicans stuck together they have cards like you wouldn’t believe…but Piers they are not sticking together. You have all of these different guys making different statements, and they want to come back…”
Fast forward four years to today, when Republicans control the entire Congress as well as the White House, and yet once again they are barreling toward a government shutdown. President Trump earlier this year commented that he thought the government needed a “good shutdown.”
And on the eve of negotiations to try to avert a shutdown and complete Congress’s unfinished business before the end of the year, it was Trump who tweeted out that he couldn’t see a deal possibly coming together.
Within days we learned why: he thinks he can score political points and appease his nativist base by framing the shutdown as him following through on his campaign promises to Build the Wall and attack immigrants — even Dreamers, young people who came to the country as children that the president promised he would protect.
In 2013, Trump said a lot of things about the shutdown that didn’t make a lot of sense, including that he thought the public was blaming the president for the Republican shutdown. As he drives us toward the shutdown he always wanted, we may have a chance to see whether that tweet proves true after all.
Turns out there is always a tweet.