In alphabetical order…Michael Cohen, Stormy Daniels, Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, Omarosa Manigault Newman, Scott Pruitt, Vladimir Putin, Roger Stone and, of course, Donald Trump haven’t just dominated the headlines over the past six months, they’ve sucked the air out of most federal activities.
This is especially true of the federal budget which (it pains me to admit) is absolutely boring compared to all of the salacious, despicable and embarrassing stories with which it has had to compete for attention this year.
That’s about to end. Big time.
No, Manafort et. al. won’t be going away. If the brief history of the Trump presidency is any indication, new investigations, indictments, tweets and aberrant personalities will emerge this fall to supplant those that have already appeared.
But for the first time since this past March, the federal budget is about to return to the big screen in Washington…not as a comedy or action film, but as an old-fashioned cliffhanger.
Last March was when President Trump swore he would shutdown the government if the next funding bill Congress sent him didn’t include billions of dollars for the wall he wants to build between the Unites States and Mexico. He’s since repeated that threat multiple times.
The fiscal 2018 omnibus appropriation he signed in March will expire at midnight September 30. That means the GOP’s House and Senate majorities will soon be facing the implications of Trump’s budget blood oath from almost six months ago.
This is going to be pure melodrama with the fiscal equivalents of villains, damsels in distress tied to the tracks and, perhaps, one or more heroes and heroines.
If you think I’m kidding, watch the cliff hanger movie trailer below and then read the following top ten questions about what is coming over the next six weeks out loud. I’ll bet you can’t help but sound like you’re hyping the next installment.
1. Will Donald Trump carry out his dastardly plot to shut down the federal government on October 1 if Congress doesn’t provide at least $5 billion for his wall?
2. Will Trump now insist that shutting down the government depends on him also getting funding for his just-proposed but much-ridiculed space force?
3. Will House and Senate Republican leaders try to fool Trump into thinking that the best moment to shut the government will be after the election during the lame duck session of Congress?
4. Will the Congressional Budget Office and Treasury Department reports that will released just weeks before the election that confirm Trump’s big deficits finally force Republicans to face the budget realities they have been so desperate to avoid?
5. Will the confirmed Trump deficits increase the already strong dislike of the GOP tax bill even further just before the midterms?
6. Will congressional Democrats, who were blamed for the last government shutdown, be blamed again?
7. Will congressional Republicans ease the political pain of a shutdown by passing one or more 2019 appropriations so some popular departments and agencies won’t be affected?
8. Will Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney carry out his diabolical plan to lessen the political impact of a shutdown by classifying routine federal functions like national parks as essential government services that must stay open.
9. Does the House’s plan to pass another tax cut, which the Senate has already said it won’t consider, foolishly make a continuing resolution and government shutdown even more likely?
10. Which programs will really be tied to the track as the budget train gets ever closer?
Follow Stan Collender on Twitter @thebudgetguy
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