Trump's shutdown threat escalates feud with McConnell, Ryan

Well, he went there.

President Trump this week called for a government shutdown unless Congress approves $1.6 billion for a border wall with Mexico.

“If we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall,” the president argued.

A chasm often yawned between Trump and congressional Republicans. But these days, the San Andreas Fault is more stable than the fractures separating the president and Hill Republicans.

“I don’t think a government shutdown is necessary and I don’t think most people want to see a government shutdown,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., countered.

And then there’s Public Enemy No. 1 … at least to the president: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Sources close to Trump and McConnell assert things are okay between the two. One McConnell confidant says there was no tense phone call between the duo. But perception is everything in Washington. That’s why both White House and McConnell aides scrambled to spray foam on this internecine conflagration.

“President Donald J. Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell remain united on many shared priorities,” said the White House in a statement, highlighting tax reform and the border wall.

“The President and I, and our teams, have been and continue to be in regular contact about our shared goals,” said the majority leader in a statement. “We are committed to advancing our shared agenda together and anyone who suggests otherwise is clearly not part of the conversation.”

When asked about the August recess shadowboxing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders declared that relationships between the president and congressional GOPers "will be fine."

If things were copacetic, the sides wouldn’t need to publish statements proclaiming tranquility. You’d think everyone was planning a vacation together in the Maldives. Instead, relations may have deteriorated so much that this September in Washington may resemble a trip to the Fyre Festival.

Few believed the pablum distributed at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Rightfully so. The president promptly torched McConnell again on Twitter.

“The only problem I have with Mitch McConnell is that, after hearingRepeal & Replace for 7 years, he failed!That should NEVER have happened!” Trump tweeted.

In a separate tweet, Trump blamed McConnell and Ryan for not linking a need to raise the debt ceiling to a bill for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The president argued that would have been “easy” and says process is “now a mess.”

One by one, Trump is tinkering with different tools in the presidential toolbox – a kit that includes signing statements, nuclear codes and veto threats.

Trump deployed the signing statement gadget on a bill to sanction Russia, North Korea and Iran. Trump put his John Hancock on the measure but excoriated Congress in the signing statement.

Two weeks ago, Trump rummaged deeper into the toolbox when it came to North Korea. Some thought Washington and Pyongyang may come to nuclear blows over Guam.

Now the president is fiddling with the veto widget, threatening to reject a spending bill if it fails to pay for the wall.  Trump’s government shutdown gambit pulverizes any chance to pin a potential government shutdown on Democrats. Republicans utilized that wedge for years in other standoffs. GOPers always claimed it wasn’t Republicans who talked shutdown. It was Democrats. Republicans can’t portray Democrats as a fall guy this time.

“I’m amused by the Democrats apparently warming up to the idea that threatening to shut down the government’s a good idea,” McConnell opined this past March as Congress faced a spending deadline.

When peppered with questions about the shutdown, Sanders repeatedly pivoted to the wall.

“The President is committed to making sure this happens,” said Sanders.

On Thursday, McConnell addressed the Kentucky Farm Bureau Ham Breakfast at the Kentucky State Fair. The majority leader uttered nary a syllable about the president’s extortion efforts for the wall. Instead, McConnell reminded the crowd that he delivered Trump his sole legislative achievement. McConnell effectively stalled then-President Barack Obama from installing Merrick Garland on the Supreme Court last year. This spring, McConnell altered Senate filibuster precedent to muscle Neil Gorsuch onto the High Court instead.

“I said to Obama, you will not fill this Supreme Court seat on your way out the door,” said McConnell.

For the second time in days, McConnell used the same language to describe his role as majority leader.

“It’s a little like being a groundskeeper at a cemetery,” said McConnell. “Everyone’s under you but nobody’s listening.”

GOP leaders are now warning the president about the perils of a shutdown. And they wonder if those concerns also fall on deaf ears.

Capitol Attitude is a weekly column written by members of the Fox News Capitol Hill team. Their articles take you inside the halls of Congress, and cover the spectrum of policy issues being introduced, debated and voted on there.