The death of former President George H.W. Bush has jumbled the congressional schedule, and both Donald Trump and GOP lawmakers have agreed to delay any government shutdown for at least a week.
Trump wants $5 billion for border security, including funding for a wall — something all Democrats and some Republicans won’t give him. But with several major departments running out of money after December 7, a partial shutdown of the government loomed.
But Bush will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda next week and most members will be attending the funeral on December 5. So the president and Republicans in Congress will probably pass a stopgap funding measure that will keep the threatened departments running for a short time.
GOP leaders are considering extending government funding for a week or two, according to multiple Republican sources. They are leaning toward one week, pushing the battle off until mid-December.
That’s in part because Bush’s death and plans for him to lie in state in the Capitol early this week will complicate any efforts to hammer out a large-scale funding deal before the Friday deadline, leading both the president and congressional leaders to seek a longer runway for the shutdown fight.
“If they [lawmakers] come, which they have, to talk about an extension because of President Bush’s passing, I would absolutely consider it and probably give it,” he told reporters while returning overnight Saturday from the G-20 summit in Argentina.
Trump, meanwhile, is scheduled to meet with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday, a meeting that for now is still scheduled despite Bush’s death.
Pelosi and Schumer are resisting Trump’s border funding demands, with Schumer sticking to a bipartisan $1.6 billion border security deal hammered out in the Senate‘s Appropriations Committee.
This will be Trump’s last bid for border wall funding and he will maximize whatever leverage he has left. He’s not likely to get anything when the new Congress convenes in January with Democrats in control.
The wall may be approved in the House, but there are nowhere near 60 votes to bring the issue to the floor in the Senate. Any Democrat who votes for a funding bill that includes money for Trump’s wall is likely to be primaried, so the president will get absolutely no help from the opposition.
The question then becomes, can Trump recognize reality and accept a funding bill with no cash for his wall? He may feel that, politically, he can’t. He promised a big, beautiful wall that Mexico would pay for. Abandoning that promise would prove to be politically disastrous for Trump and could weaken him as he faces down the Democrats in their bid to impeach him.