Bob Corker could only laugh at Republicans’ predicament as President Donald Trump vowed not to sign the Senate’s stopgap spending bill. He laughed harder still when Ted Cruz walked by and insisted the party must fund the border wall.
The retiring GOP senator seemed almost punch-drunk on the chaos of the last few days as Trump again threatens a shutdown over border wall funding that Democrats simply won’t give him. But Corker said there was little to do other than sit back, watch the shutdown circus and keep a good sense of humor.
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“Well, why not?” Corker responded when asked about his laughter. “You can’t make this stuff up. Y’all have fun.”
The Foreign Relations chairman’s colleagues might not have been in such good spirits, but Senate Republicans seem sanguine about their decision to pass a stopgap spending bill that the president now says he won’t sign. Most of them have already left for the holidays, though they’re prepared to return at short notice if needed to vote on critical government funding legislation.
In their view, they’ve done their job and now it’s up to the House and the president to work something out. In theory, the Senate could come back Friday to vote on a bill providing Trump with his $5 billion for the border wall; it would almost certainly either be defeated or the wall funding would be stripped out. But the Senate GOP seems unworried about the day ahead and the potential for a partial shutdown in 24 hours.
More than half of the 51-member conference has skipped town and they were all caught flat-footed by the president’s news.
During lunch, a handful of GOP senators learned of the president’s decision over Twitter, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) left the room quickly to talk to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). The rest of the Republicans trickled out, relatively unworried about the path ahead.
“Who knows, this could all change in 30 minutes,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a shutdown battle veteran, looked at his watch when asked how he was feeling about a potential shutdown: “It’s only 2 clock. Quite a bit of even this day left.” Still, he said he might be more worried in a day.
“It’s hard to come up with politics that are worse than shutdown politics. Unless it’s shutdown at Christmas politics,” Blunt said.
Cruz (R-Texas), who had evidently hit Corker’s funny bone, was tut-tutting his party for ignoring him. He wanted the GOP to pass legislation through budget reconciliation to evade Democratic filibusters and fund the wall, which would have required the support of 50 GOP senators and all manner of parliamentary tactics.
But he said such an attempt would have been better than being at the political whims of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
“The Democratic obstruction we’re seeing right now, that handwriting was on the wall. It was clear it was coming anyway. Unfortunately, my suggestion wasn’t followed,” he said.
Schumer came to the floor to say no matter what tactics Trump uses now, he won’t get what he wants.
“If President Trump vetoed a short-term spending bill, he would no doubt compound the serious errors he’s made throughout this budget process,” Schumer said. “Most importantly, it would not move the needle an inch towards the president getting his wall.”
The political maneuvering fell flat with Corker, who is far more concerned with the president’s decision to abruptly pull U.S. forces out of Syria. The fighting over the border wall was entertaining enough to him, but not necessarily worth coming back to D.C. for.
“I may not see y’all for a while,” Corker said. So he’s not coming back even if the Senate votes again? “I doubt it.”