U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said President Donald Trump was negotiating Tuesday night when he threatened during a campaign stop in Phoenix to force a government shutdown over not getting the border wall funding he wants.

“I think that’s part of — that’s President Trump the negotiator laying down the tough line,” the senior senator from Texas said Wednesday. “Obviously, we need to get the border secured, and we’ve come up with a plan to do that. And we need to pass that legislation, I think, and then we can go back and appropriate the money to complete the bill on the incremental basis.”

Cornyn made the remarks Wednesday morning during a visit to Coca-Cola Southwest Beverages in Austin to promote his veteran jobs bill. The Jobs for Our Heroes Act would streamline the process of acquiring a commercial driver’s license if veterans, active-duty service members or reservists have experience driving heavy vehicles.

Cornyn told reporters his border security plan focuses on tactical infrastructure, walls “in some places,” fencing and more personnel. He said his plan also would improve ports of entry and lead to more legitimate trading.

Cornyn would not directly say whether or not Trump’s remarks, which also included the president defending his comments on Charlottesville, were helping or hurting the Republican agenda in Washington. When Trump spoke Tuesday night, he was in campaign mode, Cornyn said.

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“I think the president was speaking to a very enthusiastic base of voters that helped him win the election on November the 8th, but my experience is running for election is very different than governing, and it’s really important that we work together with the president to try to get his agenda passed. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do in the Senate.”

The New York Times reported Tuesday that the relationship between Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, “has disintegrated to the point that they have not spoken to each other in weeks,” and added that “McConnell has privately expressed uncertainty that Mr. Trump will be able to salvage his administration after a series of summer crises.” The Times’ reporting follows months without a major legislative accomplishment the Trump administration can point to and anger from the president after a health care reform bill he pushed was short one vote of passing out of the chamber.

Cornyn, the second most-powerful lawmaker in the Senate, did not deny that McConnell and Trump aren’t on speaking terms but said he and McConnell communicate with the White House on a daily basis.

“I think this is more a symptom of the president’s frustration. Obviously, he’s a real estate developer. He’d never been in elected office before,” Cornyn said. “This by design, legislation, is hard to pass, and it requires consensus building. As I said, we’re not through, and in the long run the president’s going to be pleased to work with the majority leader and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to accomplish what he wants to accomplish.”

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(c)2017 Austin American-Statesman, Texas

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