In a Divided Washington, Congress Averted a Shutdown — but at a Price – The New York Times

Mr. McConnell and his staff were especially annoyed by Mr. Mulvaney’s performance on Sunday on the political talk shows, saying he seemed giddy and enthusiastic about the possibility of another shutdown, according to three people familiar with the situation.

After Mr. Mulvaney on Sunday refused to rule out a shutdown, an incensed Mr. Shelby referred to Mr. Mulvaney as “dangerous” in the negotiations during a check-in session with lawmakers, according to a member of the conference committee. He was infuriated all over again on Thursday, believing Mr. Mulvaney was behind Mr. Trump’s change of heart.

Mr. Shelby, asked about his views on Mr. Mulvaney, declined to comment.

The majority leader, sentimental as a scythe and not one for small talk, decided it was up to him. He began speaking with Mr. Trump three or four times a day, and urged others to do the same, according to several people close to the negotiations.

“I want you all to start calling the president directly,” Mr. McConnell told a group of senior Republicans last week after a conference lunch, according to two people in attendance. “He’s easy to get on the phone.”

Mr. McConnell viewed his role as equal parts cajoler and instructor. He patiently (and fruitlessly) argued against the emergency declaration, which he sees as usurping congressional authority to splinter Senate Republicans. He also used the check-ins to collect intelligence about Mr. Trump’s mind-set.

To sell the president on the deal, he argued that it was a “big down payment” on the wall and offered to support moves by the president to transfer some funding from other agencies to border barrier projects if he ditched the emergency declaration. But the core of his case, people close to Mr. McConnell said, was the argument that the deal reached by negotiators was actually a “victory” over Ms. Pelosi, thanks to his success in fighting attempts to reduce the number of detention beds.

Mr. Trump never really bought it.

But Mr. McConnell is nothing if not adaptable. During his final call with Mr. Trump, he looped in the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, who expressed misgivings about the emergency declaration, telling an annoyed Mr. Trump that it would prompt several serious lawsuits.

Mr. McConnell, quickly shifting from opposing the declaration to managing its rollout, snapped back, “Who cares? This is America — everybody sues everybody else,” according to a person the leader spoke to late Thursday.

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