Trump won by standing on the sidelines during the shutdown — but it could be short-lived

Donald Trump.

Donald Trump.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

  • Both Republicans and Democrats are saying the agreement to end the government shutdown is a good deal for Republicans and President Donald Trump.
  • Trump was only minimally involved in the process toward reopening the government.
  • The temporary spending bill could lead to an even nastier fight in the coming weeks.

Democratic and Republican Senate leaders came to an agreement Monday to reopen the government that many on the left and right said amounted to Democratic leaders folding their hand and conceding to Republicans.

The White House quickly took to claiming a victory for President Donald Trump. And when pressed by reporters on the criticism that Trump had limited involvement in negotiations, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said what Trump did “clearly worked.”

Others weren’t quite as enthusiastic about the president’s efforts.

Saying that the temporary funding agreement, which passed the Senate and House on Monday, doesn’t mean much “for the moment,” Republican strategist Reed Galen told Business Insider that Democrats “realized they were losing the political battle and decided to put a tourniquet on the bleeding.”

“Neither side hung the moon; they kept the lights on for another two weeks so they can both restart the posturing process before facing yet another shutdown,” Galen, deputy campaign manager for 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain, told Business Insider. “President Trump and the White House didn’t handle the shutdown. They sat back and watched. If past performance is any indicator of future action, the administration won’t do anything differently.”

‘They won’t be quick to compromise in the future’

House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer

House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Democrats pushed toward the shutdown in hopes of being able to reach an agreement that would codify into law the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program, known as DACA. The potential expiration of the program in March could leave nearly 700,000 immigrants who came to the US illegally as minors at risk of deportation.

Although Trump initially signaled a willingness to not only secure the future of DACA recipients, but agree to comprehensive immigration reform, top staffers such as senior adviser Stephen Miller and chief of staff John Kelly appeared to scuttle potential deals brought before them.

As a result, some Republicans and Democrats pointed to White House staff as the reason shutdown negotiations went south.

Liberal MSNBC host Joy Reid tweeted Monday that the shutdown came because Trump “reneged” on his DACA assurance “because he’s under the sway of a 30-something extremist, his right-wing chief of staff and the likes of Tom ‘1924’ Cotton,” referring to the Republican senator from Arkansas.

Chris Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax and a Trump confidant, signaled he believed the shutdown occurred because of Trump’s earlier openness to tie a DACA deal to the funding package. He said Democrats “were in a no-win situation from the get-go” because “minority don’t have much luck closing down the government.”

“The problem is the Democrats felt they were lured into this process because the president was open to doing a deal on DACA for the short-term spending bill when he wasn’t,” he told Business Insider in an email. “Once burned, they won’t be quick to compromise in the future.”

A win – but perhaps only in the short-term

The agreement came after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave an assurance to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that a vote on immigration reform legislation – or simply a clean DACA bill – will take place ahead of the next shutdown date, which is now February 8.

But Trump reportedly had little to do with the agreement, as he was uncharacteristically on the sidelines in the shutdown negotiations. The Washington Post reported Sunday that Republican leaders advised Trump to steer clear of the negotiations while a senior White House official told the publication that the president was “itching” to get involved.

“I do not know where the president is,” Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana told CNN’s “New Day” on Monday. “I don’t think we should wait for the president. Presumably, he’s thinking it through. He’s watching to see what we’re doing.”

On Sunday, Flake said he didn’t think “it helps for” Trump “to be involved at all,” adding that the “White House really hasn’t been involved from what I’ve seen.”

Schumer, who met with Trump on Friday in hopes of hammering out a deal but left empty-handed, said during a Senate floor speech Monday that “the great deal-making president sat on the sidelines.”

For his part, Trump sought to stake out the higher ground after the agreement was reached, saying in a statement that working on an immigration solution after government funding was secured was what he has “always said.”

“I am pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses and are now willing to fund our great military, border patrol, first responders, and insurance for vulnerable children,” he said in a statement. “As I have always said, once the Government is funded, my Administration will work toward solving the problem of very unfair illegal immigration. We will make a long-term deal on immigration if, and only if, it is good for our country.”

Soon after, the White House announced Trump would continue conversations on immigration reform with a series of Republican senators once the government was reopened.

And with Schumer having accepted a deal that, on the surface, looks good for Republicans, the White House can claim victory for now.

“The White House deserves credit for holding strong and making the Democrats blink,” Republican strategist Alex Conant, who served as communications director for Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign, told Business Insider in an email. “It could be a short-term win, especially if we have another shutdown in February.”