President Donald Trump on Sunday proposed that the Senate change its voting procedures to pass a spending bill to end the current stalemate that has resulted in a federal shutdown.
“Great to see how hard Republicans are fighting for our Military and Safety at the Border. The Dems just want illegal immigrants to pour into our nation unchecked. If stalemate continues, Republicans should go to 51% (Nuclear Option) and vote on real, long term budget, no C.R.’s!” Trump tweeted Sunday morning, the second full day of the government shutdown.
The federal government partially shut down at midnight on Jan. 20, after the Senate failed to pass a short term spending bill, also known as a continuing resolution. In keeping with Senate procedures, the bill needed 60 votes to pass — the necessary number to overcome a filibuster — and only received 50. Five Republicans voted against the bill, which was largely blocked by the 44 Senate democrats who opposed it on the grounds that it did not include a solution on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).
Invoking the nuclear option that Trump suggested would require the Senate to have a simply majority to pass a bill. Under Senate rules, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could introduce a motion for this to happen, but it would have to be approved by a majority of the Senate. This could be unlikely; the current composition is 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats (this includes two independents who caucus with the Democrats). Republicans could only lose two votes, and five Republicans have already voted against the short term resolution.
“What the president did this morning is try and shed some light on the fact that, if ordinary rules prevailed, the majority rules of the Senate, the government would be open as of today,” White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said on CNN Sunday in explaining Trump’s tweet.
Both parties have invoked the nuclear option before. In 2013, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid used it to confirm three of President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees to a federal appeals court, preventing filibusters on executive appointments. In 2017, McConnell invoked it for the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, thereby ending filibusters for Supreme Court nominees.
A spokesperson for McConnell said the Majority Leader and the party did not agree with Trump’s suggestion. “The Republican Conference opposes changing the rules on legislation,” the spokesperson said.