World

Trump still stumped for major victory

Trump wants Senate change to allow him to pass bills

WASHINGTON:  US President Donald Trump came to office promising he would produce so much winning, Americans would be sick of it. As he struggles to produce wins, some signs of frustration are starting to appear.

Democrats' gleeful declarations that they outsmarted Republicans in a battle over a spending bill that avoided a government shutdown drew the ire of the president. Democrats were happy that his Mexico border wall was not given funding.

Mr Trump tweeted on Tuesday that maybe a government shutdown would not be so bad and that Republicans should consider changing Senate rules to make it easier to pass spending and other bills without Democratic support.

"Our country needs a good 'shutdown' in September to fix mess!" he wrote.

This frustrated some fellow Republicans in Congress, who chafed at the suggestion that the White House could dictate Senate rules, or send a message that a shutdown, which costs the economy millions, was wanted.

"I think it would be a good thing at this point if the iPhone was put in a safe, locked away and maybe returned in four years," Republican Senator Bob Corker, who was once on the shortlist to be Trump's vice-president, told reporters.

"That's not constructive. Those are the kinds of things that should never happen, and... it's damaging to our credibility. It's damaging to trust here within the (Capitol) building," he said.

Mr Trump marked his 100th day in office on Saturday, and used last week to argue he has made major progress in rolling back federal regulations and improving the climate for job creation.

But with his healthcare reform effort flagging, Mr Trump has been unable to get a major piece of legislation through a Congress controlled by his own Republican Party, leaving him without a signature victory.

With Democrats celebrating concessions they extracted in the spending bill, Mr Trump used a Rose Garden ceremony honouring the Air Force Academy's football team to declare he and Republicans got more from the legislation than might appear.

"After years of partisan bickering and gridlock, this bill is a clear win for the American people," he said.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney gave news briefings to promote Trump gains from the bill.

One briefing via a conference call was marred by technical issues, with Mr Mulvaney straining to be heard over music that mysteriously began playing.

Mr Mulvaney told reporters at one point: "I'll try to answer it one more time, and clearly we're having a lot of background noise here."

Later, in the White House briefing room, Mr Mulvaney said he understood Mr Trump's frustration, accusing Democrats of trying to"spike the football" by celebrating the budget deal as a Democratic victory to make the president look bad.

He said Democrats were thwarted by Republicans in their attempt to add bailout money for Puerto Rico.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate would debate the bill this week, and that most Republicans did not favour a change in the rules to make it easier to pass legislation without Democratic support.

Mr Trump said Republicans had to acquiesce to Democratic demands in the spending bill as the party's majority was too slim to win the 60 Senate votes needed to advance the legislation without them. Republicans hold 52 of the Senate's 100 seats.

"The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there! We either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51%," he tweeted.

Republicans last forced a government closure in 2013 for 17 days. Democrats said Mr Trump would shoulder the blame for any shutdown now. - REUTERS

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