James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

11:14 A.M. EST

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  Morning.  Just here to get you folks up to speed on where things stand regarding the potential lapse in funding — the shutdown.

OMB is preparing for what we’re calling the “Schumer shutdown.”  It still surprises me — and I’ve been through some of these before — that the Democrats in the Senate are opposing a bill that they don’t oppose.  They’re for clean CRs; they’re for the extension to the CHIP program.  Many of them support the delay in some of the taxes, most specifically the medical device tax, the Cadillac tax, especially.  They don’t oppose anything in the bill, but they are opposing the bill.

I just want to let everybody know that we don’t want this.  We do not want a shutdown.  But if Mr. Schumer insists on it, he is in a position to force this on the American people.

From an OMB perspective, because we’re involved in managing a lapse or a shutdown — and we want to make folks understand that it will look very different than it did under the previous administration.  One of the things that I’ve learned since I’ve been in this office is that — there’s no other way to describe it — but the Obama administration weaponized the shutdown in 2013.  What they didn’t tell you was that they did not encourage agencies to use carry forward funds, funds that they were sitting on, nor did they encourage agencies to use transfer authority.

They could have made the shutdown in 2013 much less impactful, but they chose to make it worse.  The only conclusion I can draw is they did so for political purposes.  So it will look different this time around.  We’ve also got — we can answer questions — take your questions about specifics on that.

Marc Short is also here to give you a very brief update on where we stand, and then we’ll take your questions for a few minutes.

You want to go ahead?

MR. SHORT:  Thank you all for your time this morning.  As Mick said last night, the House passed a bipartisan bill with 230 votes.  The President stands ready to sign that bill to keep the government functioning and afloat.  It appears, unfortunately, that Senate Democrats are entrenched in forcing a shutdown.

I think that there’s obviously a lot of hypocrisy in this town.  I think there’s some ironies to point out.  As the Director said, Nancy Pelosi a couple years ago called them, “I call them legislative arsonists” —

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  That was me.  (Laughter.)

MR. SHORT:  — in referring to those who were voting for a shutdown at the time, commenting that, “They’re there to burn down what we should be building up, in terms of investments in education and scientific research.”

Chuck Schumer said at the time, “It’s sort of like this.  Someone goes into your house, takes your wife and children hostage, and then says, let’s negotiate over the price of your house.”  In essence, that’s the same tactic they’re deploying.

Last night, I’m sure many of you know, you all asked Senator Feinstein her position, and she said that if the government shuts down, people will die.  And as a follow-up question on how she’s going to vote, she said she hasn’t decided yet; people are going to die, I don’t know how I’m going to vote on this.’

So here we are.  I think the reality is that this is not about policy, it’s about politics.  As Mick said, we’re not familiar with anything in this CR that Democrats are opposing.  In fact, they champion and support the CHIP program.  This will reauthorize it for six years.  I believe a new study says there are 9 million children now getting health insurance through that program.  The reality is that we will jeopardize payments for our military and our troops and those serving on the frontline of our country, both at Customs and Border Patrol, ICE, those who are trying to protect our borders and protect our country.

This is a serious issue.  We are frustrated, obviously, because Mick’s job is to submit a budget to Congress.  Let’s keep that in perspective.  Mick does that in February.  Congress has months to complete appropriations process.  The fiscal year ends on September 30th; we’re now in mid-January.  It is frustrating to all of us that we’re in this position.

But what’s unclear is, what is it that Democrats are asking in order to get out of a shutdown?  It seems that they are just hell-bent on getting to a shutdown.  We are anxious to make sure that our troops and those serving on the frontlines of our country continue to get paid.

Q    So, Marc, a couple things on that.  I think we know what the Democrats are asking for; they want a deal on DACA.

The President, on the other hand, tweeted last year that, “Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’.”  Isn’t he getting exactly what he asked for?  And it was the President, as I’m sure you know, the last time we had a government shutdown, who said it is the President’s responsibility to lead.  He needs to get the players in the room; he needs to lead.  So how is he going to lead on this?

MR. SHORT:  Jon, couple points there.  One, the President was very active yesterday in bringing together the House votes to get 230 votes.  He was speaking to Freedom Caucus members.  I think that was where we had the best challenge yesterday, and he helped get that bill accomplished.

I think he’s making continued calls this morning.  He’s called both bipartisan members today.  He will continue to do that.  He is leading on this issue.

Regarding DACA, we feel that the administration has put forward our plans on this.  Keep in mind that Secretary Kelly, a year ago, went to Congress and said:  We need a solution on DACA.  We asked Congress to fix it.  We knew what was going to happen when several states sued the federal government over Obama’s unconstitutional policy here.  We gave them plenty of heads up and warning on this.

Back in the fall, we submitted our priorities to Congress, in October.  We then refined those, at their request, to say, “This is too much.”  We basically negotiated against ourselves and winnowed down that list for them, to say, here are practical things that are necessary to get to a deal on DACA.  We have put forward that plan.

We think that, right now — you just saw a study a couple days ago that showed 2,500 people on the terror watch list are trying to get into this country every year.  That is seven per day — seven per day.  We think it’s time to fix the immigration problems in our country, and we have put forward a proposal to do exactly that.

We’re continuing to have conversations.  I think we had productive conversations yesterday with Leader McCarthy, Steny Hoyer, Senator Durbin, and Senator Cornyn.  We’re about to go back up to the Hill to continue those conversations.  I think they’re making progress.

What doesn’t make sense is to say we’re going to shut down the government just because you’re making progress, but I need something else.

Q    Let me ask you a couple questions, to Director Mulvaney, if I may.  To the President’s comments about s-hole countries, what responsibility does he bear for the challenges there have been to try to come to some deal?

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  Yeah, go back to what Marc just said.  Let’s make one thing clear about — one of the differences between where we are now and where we were in 2013.  The President is actively working right now to try to prevent a shutdown.  I will contend to you that is dramatically different than what President Obama was doing in 2013.  I was there, okay?  I was involved heavily in this in 2013, and I will tell you that it’s absolutely my belief that President Obama wanted a shutdown in 2013 because he thought Democrats would — excuse me, Republicans would get blamed.

Q    Let’s talk about today.

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  So let’s talk about today.  The President, as Marc just pointed out, actively worked all day yesterday to try and get a bill through the House, and continues conversations today.  So there’s no way you could lay this at the feet of the President of the United States.  He is actively working to try to get a deal.  That’s one of the differences.

Q    So why not bring leadership here as a last ditch effort?

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  I think the President’s continued bipartisan conversations, I don’t — I’m not privy to his —

Q    But why not do a conversation in person?

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  Again, I’m not privy to the meetings the President may or may not be having.

Q    This is a question for Marc.  Marc, I know we’re talking government shutdown, but this is an important topic for the expected 100,000 or more people taking part in the March for Life today.  So I want to ask, the Pain-Capable 20-week abortion ban that fast-tracked in the Senate, when do you expect the vote?  And why does the White House want a vote if it’s likely to die?

MR. SHORT:  I think this administration has continued to defend life from the very beginning.  The Vice President, last year, was the first Vice President to speak to the March for Life.  The President is hosting people here to protect life.  It’s an important issue for this administration.  You saw, with the reversal of the Mexico City policy, the President has looked to make sure that we are making sure that taxpayer dollars are not used overseas to fund abortions.  That is a commitment of this administration.

Q    But when will the Senate vote?

MR. SHORT:  We don’t have a date as to when the Senate will vote.  But to your question about whether or not it fails or passes, we think it’s important for this administration to be on record in support of life.

If I could go back to the second-to-the-last question about bringing leaders over here.  Keep in mind, just last week, we had a bipartisan meeting here that the President organized with leadership to try to get to a resolution on DACA.

Out of that meeting, discussion was, after the press had departed, discussion was that the four leaders — McCarthy, Durbin, Cornyn, and Hoyer — would be the ones organizing the meetings moving forward to get to the solution.  That’s what we’ve been part of.

So when you ask, why isn’t the President bringing members over here — he did.  He has tried to reach — the biggest issue, they say, is their question, which is shutting down the government over illegal immigration — he is trying to solve that problem, and brought them here for that conversation.

Q   If I could just ask about your comment at the beginning of this.  You said this was the “Schumer shutdown.”  How can it be the Schumer shutdown when Republicans control the White House, the House, and the Senate?

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  Come on, you know the answer to that as well as anybody.  I mean, I have to laugh when people say that.  “Oh, well, you control the House, the Senate, and the White House — why can’t you get this done?”

Q    But you do.  You do.

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  You know as well as anybody that it takes 60 votes in the Senate to pass an appropriations bill.  Right?  You know that.

Q    I know that.

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  Okay, so when you only have 51 votes in the Senate, then you have to have Democrat support in order to keep the government — to fund the government.  So that’s the answer to your question.

Q    So the President asked Congress to come up with a solution for the DREAMers, Congress was in the room — members of Congress were in the room with the President last week.  It seemed to be a fairly productive meeting.  And then the whole process got blown up.  And it seems —

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  Republicans tried to —

Q    And if I may, it seems that the whole process was blown up by the President’s comments.  So why not just give the Democrats the DREAMers, and you can get out of this?

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  When Republicans tried to add a discussion about Obamacare to the funding process in 2013, we were accused by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer of inserting a non-fiscal — a non-financial issue into the spending process in order to shut the government down.  How is that not exactly what is happening today?  There is no reason that you have to deal with DACA this week.  There’s no reason you have to deal with DACA before the end of February — excuse me, the middle of February.  DACA doesn’t expire until March 5th.  This is purely an attempt by the Senate Democrats, led by Mr. Schumer — it’s why we call it the “Schumer shutdown” — in order to try and get a shutdown that they think this President gets blamed for.

Yes, ma’am.

Q    You’re saying that you need Democrat support in the Senate.  So are there —

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  We got it in the House.

Q    So are there any concessions that this White House is willing to make to possibly try to get support from those Democrats that you need?

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  Again, go back to what I said at the opening.  They don’t oppose anything in there.  They support CHIP.  In fact, every member of the Finance Subcommittee or something like that, voted — a Democrat has voted for this exact CHIP extension.  They don’t want the Cadillac tax to go into place.  They’ve always supported clean CRs.  Why would you have to — those are concessions.  Ordinarily, you would just simply put up a clean CR and let them vote it.  And again, it worked in the House; there were several Democrats who voted for it.

Q    So is it take-it-or-leave-it on the bill that passed the House?  They have to take — so Democrats have to support the bill in the House to avert a shutdown?

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  Democrats should support the bill in the Senate.  Again, the House has passed a bill, okay?  The Senate has a couple different choices.  They cannot take it up.  This is basic civics, right?  Either they take it up and pass it, take it up and don’t pass it, or they change it and send it back to the House.

The point of the matter is, though, there ae things on this bill that they like.  They have nothing in this bill that they do not like.  The only reason they are not voting for it is that they want other things to be added to it and they want a shutdown.  That’s the only explanation we have.

Yes, ma’am.

Q    The main thing Democrats want added is DACA.

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  Yeah.

Q    And you’ve said before — many of you have said, everyone agrees they want a solution on DACA.  So what is the big sticking point, then, on your end about including a DACA fix in this bill?

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  I think Marc mentioned that earlier.  The bill is simply not ready.  You don’t get to vote on a summary.  You don’t get to vote on —

Q    (Inaudible) months to work on this.

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  There have been months of work.  As you see with any major piece of legislation, it doesn’t and shouldn’t come together overnight.  There’s no DACA bill to vote on and there’s no emergency in terms of the timing on DACA.  DACA does not expire until March 5th.  So there’s absolutely no reason to tie these two things together right now.

MR. SHORT:  If I follow up on that one question.  Again, I think it’s important to remember that, yes, we’re approaching the March 5th deadline, but the President put forward what he asked for last fall.  We’ve been asking Congress to address this.

And, Jim, back to your question — the reality is, there is no legislation for them to pull up.  They say there is this Flake-Durbin-Graham proposal; there is not legislation to vote on.  So when they say we need to have DACA solved before you do a continuing resolution to keep the government open, there isn’t actually a bill for them to even vote on — which I think shows that this is really about politics and not really about policy.

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  And I think General Kelly will also tell you that he actually mentioned this to the senators during his confirmation process.  So this administration has been trying for at least a year now to get some progress on DACA and it’s Congress that’s taking that —

Yes, sir.

Q    Could I start with Marc, if I could, and then I got a question for you as well, Mick.  You’ve been the one who’s been up there on Capitol Hill every day.  What I’m getting from the podium today is, if this happens, it’s the Democrats’ fault.  What, as a practical matter, can you do between now and midnight tonight to change the equation and get people onboard the CR?

MR. SHORT:  Well, John, I think, again, one of our challenges is, I don’t think it’s clear what the Democrats are asking for.  I accept that you’re saying they want a solution to DACA, but there is not bill text that they’re asking Republicans to bring up.  So I think that they really believe for political reasons it’s better for them to force the shutdown.

The President is continuing to reach out to them, and he will continue to do so throughout the day.  He is actively on the phone.  That’s what we will continue to try to be saying, “What is a solution that you guys think would be necessary?”

We, frankly, think that giving the Children’s Health Insurance Program — something the Democrats have asked for reauthorizing it for six years — was something that would attract Democrat votes.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that’s the case.

Q    And, Mick, if I could to you — because the other big story of the week has been the CFPB and your request for zero funding.  Are you working to reduce spending there?  What’s the future of the CFPB?  What’s Leandra English’s current role there?  And does she continue to draw a salary?

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  Six questions at once.

Q    It’s all about the same thing.

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  It is.  I won’t speak to litigation, but with Ms. English, we do intend — we’ve asked for no money this quarter over at the CFPB simply because we didn’t think it was necessary.  CFPB has $177 million in its reserve fund, and we’re able to operate next quarter off of that.  So that was the reason that we asked for no money this quarter.

We intend to continue to fulfill the statutory mission of the CFPB.  I’ve told people from the day I walked in there — I wasn’t there to shut the place down or blow it up, but we will focus on the statutory mission and we have plenty of money in the bank to do that.

Yes, sir.  And this will have to be the last.  Yes, sir.

Q    Thank you very much.  You mentioned that DACA is not an immediate now because of March — the March 5th deadline.  You know, though, that that is the sticking point for many Democrats.  So for people who are sitting at home and they are wondering, “If there is a government shutdown, how long would this last,” could this potentially go weeks, like the last one was 16 days, especially since you’re talking about the March 5th deadline?  What is the realistic timeframe of how long — and this is for either of you — a shutdown could potentially last?

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  Yeah.  You all have seen that we talk about immigration, and you all have seen the quote from Mr. Schumer from 2013, but I’ll read it again.  He says, “Basically it’s sort of like this…We could say, we’re shutting down the government, we’re not going to raise the debt ceiling until you pass immigration reform.  It would be governmental chaos.”

There are examples of statements exactly like — Bernie Sanders, one of my favorite.  “What they are saying” — by the way, this was of me, back in 2013, of the group that was trying to figure out a way to force a debate on Obamacare repeal: “What they are saying to the American people tonight is: Maybe we have lost the presidential election.  Maybe we have lost seats in the Senate and the House…” — this is Sanders talking in 2013 — “…It doesn’t matter.  We can now bring the government to a shutdown, throw some 800,000 hardworking Americans out on the street.  We’re going to get our way no matter what.”

This is exactly what they accused the Republicans of doing back in 2013.  There is absolutely no reason to have to insert a DACA discussion, an immigration discussion into the funding bill today.

Q    You alluded the shutdown looking differently.

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  Yes.

Q    Can you expand upon that, please?  How will this look differently?

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  Sure, a couple different things.  And again, OMB is responsible for, sort of, managing the lapse, managing the shutdown.  The military will still go to work.  They will not get paid.  The border will still be patrolled.  They will not get paid.  Folks will still be fighting the fires out West.  They will not get paid.  The parks will be open.  People won’t get paid.  You can see the whole list.

There will be a bunch of different things — when you see, compared to 2013 — but don’t lose sight of the fact that we’re asking the military to work without pay.  We’re asking firefighters to work without pay.  It’s still harming the people —

Q    But what’s different?

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  What’s different?  It’s different.  Parks will be open this time, and they weren’t before.  Let’s go down the list.  The parks will be open.  The way it works is that the parks are open, but the — especially if the services are provided by third parties, but things like the trash won’t get picked up.  Fannie and Freddie will be open.  The Post Office will be open.  The TSA will be open.

But again, all of these people will be working for nothing, which is simply not fair.  We are going to manage the shutdown differently.  We are not going to weaponize it.  We’re not going to try and hurt people, especially people who happen to work for this federal government.  But we still need Congress to appropriate the funds.

Look, that’s all the time we had set.  We’re supposed to go — at 11:30 a.m.  We’ll be doing this again.  So, anyway, thanks very much.

END

11:32 A.M. EST

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