Did President Trump offer any new solutions or plans to reopen the government during a meeting with Republican senators Wednesday?
“Not really,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) told reporters as he left. “Just a matter of ‘we’re getting there, we’re not there yet.'”
That was the consensus from GOP senators as they left an hourlong lunch meeting at the Capitol. Trump made no new proposals and offered no new solutions to the ongoing government shutdown, which hit its 19th day on Wednesday. The President repeated much of what he said during his nationally televised Oval Office speech Tuesday night, while making a push to rally wavering members to hold strong with him.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said there was one clear message from Trump: “Stick together.”
Trump insisted to reporters as he exited that the GOP was “totally unified” behind him, claiming “there was no discussion of anything other than solidarity” during the meeting.
“At this point I don’t think there’s really much talk of negotiating this for the other. It’s hanging tough to make sure that we get the funding for the barriers,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) told reporters.
A few Republicans voiced concerns about the current situation, including Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME). But the vast majority made clear that they’re behind the President, even as some privately admit that they’re losing the argument over why the government should remain partly closed until Trump gets the $5.7 billion he’s demanded to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The shutdown is just two days away from being the longest in U.S. history.
Murkowski is one of the few senators who has publicly questioned Trump’s strategy, and she confronted him during the meeting.
She told reporters that she pointed out that “the government is shut down and there are consequences and people are starting to feel those consequences.”
“He urged us to remain unified,” Murkowski said.
A handful of moderate Republicans, many from swing states, have been floating the idea of a Senate vote to reopen certain parts of government. But most remain publicly behind Trump, even as they grow increasingly nervous about the political and real-world consequences of the ongoing shutdown.
“I didn’t say nobody raised any concerns but nobody raised any negative concerns, and everybody is committed to staying the course,” Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) said.
“Everybody’s going to remain in unity,” freshman Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) said.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) said it would be “futile” to vote on the individual departmental funding bills that House Democrats plan to pass, noting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said he won’t bring the bills up. Trump also said he would veto the bills.
The President also didn’t bring up the possibility of declaring a national emergency in his remarks. But when a senator said they were glad Trump hadn’t declared one in order to try to seize other national security funds to build the wall, he held out the possibility that he still might, according to two senators in the room.
“He made it clear that it’s still an option but he decided at this point it wasn’t the right time,” said Rounds.