The window of opportunity is closing on Donald Trump as a lame duck Congress prepares to address the issue of funding most of the government before a temporary spending bill expires on December 7.
Specifically, Trump wants funding for his border wall. And he may be willing to shut down most of the government until he gets it.
“I think probably, if I was ever going to do a shutdown over border security, when you look at the caravans, when you look at the mess, when you look at the people coming in, this would be a very good time to do a shutdown,” Trump said.
Trump added, however, that he didn’t think a shutdown would “be necessary, because I think the Democrats will come to their senses.”
Well, good luck with that, Mr. President. Republicans are still in the majority and Democrats are not going to lift a finger to help them if a shutdown looms, nor are any of them going to vote money for a border wall.
The simple reason? They don’t have to.
Congress averted a government shutdown in September by passing a massive spending bill to fund a large portion of the government. The package did not, however, include money for Trump’s border wall, and Congress passed a shorter-term spending bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security, among other agencies, until December
With the midterm elections now over, Congress is anticipating returning to a battle over funding for Trump’s promised border wall before the December deadline. Since most of the government is funded, Congress will be trying to avoid a partial shutdown.
In addition to DHS funding, there’s a big fight coming over the SNAP program. The former food stamp program is administered by the Agriculture Department and Republicans want more limits on it.
With 39 Republican members not returning in 2019, you have to wonder how they will vote on the border wall and food stamps.
For Republican representatives who were not re-elected, Andrea Seabrook, managing editor Countable, said that they may be more inclined to pass measures they otherwise would steer clear of. “They have nothing to lose from voting more conservatively than their constituents, it’s more likely that they’re thinking about their next job.”
As for the Democrats, she said that it is possible that they will use a government shutdown as leverage to halt Republican initiatives from passing. But at the end of the day, she said, “lawmakers don’t want to be in Congress on Christmas, they all have spouses or children who are telling them ‘just get things done.’”
Trump’s nonchalance about a government shutdown reflects an attitude by some Republican conservatives that a partial closure of government offices at Christmas won’t hurt them politically. They are right in the sense that the next election is two years away and most voters have short memories.
But one of the first rules in politics is “do no unnecessary harm.” I’m sure the media coverage of weeping federal workers unable to purchase their kids presents or buy Christmas dinner because they’ve been furloughed will help put enough pressure on Republicans to give Trump some kind of meaningless funding for the wall.