President Donald Trump is using the shutdown to distract from other potentially negative news about his administration, according to Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I.
“This is disgraceful, it’s unnecessary. In my view it’s being done to distract from a couple of very bad weeks by this administration, where we’re not talking about Jim Mattis leaving and a serious rebuke to the president’s foreign policy; we’re not talking about the shutdown of the Trump foundation for consistent illegalities; we’re not talking about Michael Flynn’s sentencing hearings that blew up with real consequences about Michael Cohen’s cooperation with the special counsel and the growing threat to this administration by Robert Muller’s investigation,” Cicilline said at a Jan. 14 meeting with Rhode Island lawmakers and federal employees.
“This is now about the shutdown. When the president said, ‘I want to shut the government down,’ I think he was very clear in what he wanted to do, and it was in part to distract from the real challenges that this administration faces.”
The shutdown became the longest in history over the weekend, surpassing the 21-day shutdown of 1995 and 1996.
That record, along with the first missing paychecks federal employees should have received Friday, mark two points of particular shame, according to Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I.
“This came here as a result of a selfish and illogical strategy by the president of the United States,” said George Nee, president of the Rhode Island American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.
But Rhode Island senators placed equal blame on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky for refusing to bring forward House-passed legislation that would reopen the government.
“This ends when Republican senators put enough pressure on Leader McConnell, and he does his job and brings these bills to the Senate for a vote,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.
“My prediction is that they’ll get more than 80, perhaps even 90, votes in the Senate if he would only bring them to the floor. But we haven’t seen much of Leader McConnell. He’s become sort of the Punxsutawney Phil of the shutdown crisis, down in a groundhog hole refusing to do anything, refusing to call up bills, and it’s time for our Republican colleagues to root him out of his hole before we get to actual Groundhog Day and let the Senate do its business.”
Sen. Jack Reid, D-R.I., also noted that the House bill included nothing more than what the Senate had already approved in the previous Congress, but Republicans are holding out for border wall funding.
“There’s been a lot of talk about the wall. That’s a campaign slogan,” said Reid.
“We have never seen a detailed plan for those portions of the border that should have a wall or a fence or remote sensors, etc. Until we see such a plan, should we in good conscience and in good faith with the American people appropriate $5 billion for a bumper sticker? A presidential bumper sticker? I don’t think so.”