My latest was published by USA Today this am. You can see it here.
My latest was published by USA Today this am. You can see it here.
He’s completely wrong. It ‘s not being caused by employees; it’s completely the result of a — Trump’s — management decision. That makes this a “lockout.”
First, in spite of the polls showing that he’s being held responsible for the government shutdown and his pre-shutdown bragging that he would be proud to be blamed for it happening, Donald Trump apparently believes that he’s winning the shutdown fight. He currently has little incentive to do any differently than he’s currently doing.
Second, after taking their oaths of office, the new House Democratic majority’s immediate effort this week will be to pass legislation that, if enacted, will reopen the federal government. Therefore, House Democrats also have no reason to do anything differently.
Third, the reopen-the-government effort will then fall directly into Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) lap. With the House likely to pass something that almost certainly doesn’t have the votes to pass the Senate, it will be up to McConnell to negotiate some kind of deal with either Trump or House Democrats, take the heat for not being able to do either or cause his Republican majority to take more of the blame for not being able to resolve the situation.
In other words, the shutdown is about to be all about Mitch.
This will be happening at the shutdown witching hour, when the lack of paychecks for federal employees will be hitting the point where there is real economic hardship for them, their families and the businesses that rely on them. Time will be of the essence.
It will also be happening as financial markets will be looking for reasons to stand down from their recent volatility and a shutdown deal (or no deal) will provide one of those.
And it will also be happening as everyone is looking for clues as to how Washington will be able to operate with the new divided political control. This will not just be the first test; it may well turnout to be the biggest test of the year.
McConnell choice will be stark: either try to reinforce Trump’s wishes on the wall or try to talk him into doing something different and perhaps keeping the fight alive.
The worst thing for Trump will be for Mitch to conclude that overriding his veto of a bill that reopens the government is the only way to get out of this situation. It will be politically messy and could put Trump into the kind of tweet storm rant against McConnell that he uses frequently against others. That could send financial markets reeling.
A veto override could also result in Trump looking for even more things to distract attention from what many would consider his worst legislative rebuke ever, especially because it would come by the hands of Senate Republicans.
The most logical solution will be to extend the time so something may be negotiated by reopening the government for another month or so. But this is Trump; logic won’t necessarily be the guiding force unless McConnell is able to convince him that a veto override will be far worse for him in both the long- and short-run.
If McConnell can’t do that, or can’t get the votes for the override he may need, this shutdown is going to set records for political ugliness and ineptitude.
The two-week delay in the government shutdown showdown that congressional leaders apparently have negotiated with the White House makes it less likely…and perhaps far less likely…that a shutdown will actually occur this year.
First, the longer a lame duck session of Congress goes on, the less likely that a retiring or defeated representative or senator will be around to vote at all or can be counted on to vote reliably with their leadership. They have to vacate their offices, will be losing staff, have to find a new job, have to move out of Washington and, in general, are far less focussed on being a member of Congress.
As a result, the GOP leadership will be credibly able to tell the White House that it can’t be certain of the vote count on any issue, including the one that is most likely to trigger a shutdown — the wall Trump wants built between the United States and Mexico. Because of that, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will most likely counsel Trump not to push the issue with a shutdown.
Second, the new deadline is just four days away from Christmas. Not only will representatives and senators hate being in Washington over the holiday while a resolution of the shutdown is attempted, the bad media from furloughing federal employees and the damage it might do to the economy will be much more intense than it would have been had the shutdown occurred in the middle of December.
Third, late December will be only about two weeks before the Democrats take control of the House of Representatives and could be more logically blamed by Trump for failing to fund his wall. That should make it much easier for the president to see the political wisdom of agreeing to a short-term continuing resolution in late December that will create a confrontation with Democrats just a few weeks later.
The Washington Post is reporting this morning that, because of Ex-President George H.W. Bush’s death, Congress and the White House may agree to extend the current continuing resolution by a week or so and, therefore, delay a possible federal government shutdown.
Don’t be fooled.
Bush’s death and the events that have been scheduled this week to commemorate his life almost certainly will be a cover story rather than the actual reason this Friday’s shutdown showdown may be delayed.
The real reason will be that neither the White House nor Senate Republicans have the votes they need. If they did, the debate and vote would have taken place this week “in President George H.W. Bush’s memory and honor.”
This is one of the most basic truisms of legislating in Washington: You stop talking and take the vote as soon as possible when you’ve got enough to win. When you don’t, you figure out a way to delay.
A delay in the shutdown deadline past December 7 was always likely even if Ex-President Bush had not died. Negotiations over funding for the wall Trump wants built between the U.S. and Mexico we’re going very slowly and it was becoming increasingly clear that there wouldn’t be an agreement by the this-Friday-at-midnight deadline.
Plus Congress and the White House had left themselves room to maneuver when they made the original deadline December 7, two weeks before Christmas. While they may have hoped and prayed they would be able to resolve the funding fight by this Friday, there was always the possibility that it could be extended.
The question now is will even this new deadline provide enough time for Trump and Congress to come to an agreement over the wall.
Lame duck sessions of Congress get more difficult the later they get in December because defeated and retiring representatives and senators don’t vote as reliably, and sometimes don’t show up to vote at all.
In addition, as I posted last week, it’s still not clear that, for all his chest pounding, Trump really wants to force the showdown now. Indeed, his rapid willingness to consider delaying the shutdown deadline is very likely a sign that he’s not really sure he knows what he wants to do.
Over at Bloomberg Opinion, Jonathan Bernstein has a very important piece this morning about how Donald “Trump is losing his influence” in the Senate.
Bernstein points to two legislative events as proof: the 14 GOP senators who voted against Trump on Yemen and Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Tim Scott (R-SC) killing the confirmation of a Trump judicial nominee.
I want to add one more: staunch Trump ally Lindsay Graham (R-SC) publicly vowing not to vote for any year-end legislation — including a bill with money for the wall — unless and until the CIA briefs him on the Khashoggi murder, something the administration so far has refused to do.
As Bernstein points out, all of this makes the rest of the lame duck session of Congress a legislatively perilous time for Trump. With House Democrats feeling their blue wave political oats, Senate Republicans in open revolt and the Mueller investigation signaling big problems ahead for the administration, Trump is in his weakest political position since becoming president.
And that makes a Trump-induced shutdown next week far less likely than it was when this week started.
Given his rapidly worsening political situation, Trump’s best move next week could be to agree to a short-term continuing resolution with no money for his wall that forces another decision to be made early next year. That would give him the opportunity to blame the House Democratic majority if he doesn’t get the funding he wants.