Today, with exactly (and just) five weeks to go before the start of the next federal fiscal year, nothing has changed to make the odds of a government shutdown less than they were before the House of Representatives began its summer-Labor Day recess.
As a result, I’m sticking with my previous estimate that there’s a 60 percent chance the federal government will shut down this October 1.
That is, I’m sticking with 60 percent for now. If anything, the likelihood of a shutdown is only going to increase from here.
Yes, as Carl Hulse pointed out in the New York Times, the Senate did make some progress on the 2019 appropriations this summer (although I disagree with his assertion that the Senate has “got its groove back”).
But there are still only 11 legislative days left in September and Congress as a whole isn’t close to completing the work it has to do on all the 2019 spending bills to get them signed by the president before the government turns into a pumpkin at midnight September 30.
Besides, Congress getting the 12 individual appropriations to the president isn’t the most important question.
As I’ve been posting here for months and as Sarah Ferris reported in Politico last Friday, no one has any idea whether President Trump will sign any appropriations if Congress doesn’t provide at least $5 billion for the wall he wants to build between the United States and Mexico.
And although he no longer needs to pay for his military parade, you can’t help but wonder whether Trump will now also demand at least initial funding for his space force as the price for his signature.
To say the least, up to now Trump has consistently been inconsistent and unreliable when dealing with Congress on budget issues. Congressional Republicans have every reason to be very concerned about whether, if he has the need, Trump will shut down the government.
And given last week’s Cohen/Manafort/Pecker/Weiselberg/Mueller events, Trump seems increasingly likely to have the need to do just that. If, as seems likely, Congress again refuses to appropriate the billions he wants for his wall, Trump will be handed a relatively easy way to show that he’s in charge; to look tough on immigration, the most important issue he has ridden since the day he announced his candidacy; and to reconfirm his dealmaking abilities.
Congressional Republicans have every reason to be very concerned about whether, if he has the need, Trump will shut down the government.
Being able to dictate the terms of a deal on a continuing resolution — the funding bill most likely to be needed to keep the federal government from shutting its doors — should not be underestimated as a major motivation for the president.
Over just the last few weeks, Trump has been unable to control Robert Mueller, Omarosa Manigault Newman, Michael Cohen and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He’s also had to order his secretary of State not to travel to North Korea because the North Koreans were not cooperating, deal with his tariffs not being well-received and confront the fact that his tax cut is less popular than the Affordable Care Act.
In addition, as his extensive use of executive orders and pardons demonstrate, Trump loves situations where he can make a unilateral decision…like being the sole person who may veto the CR.
Trump may also see this as his last chance the fund the wall. While there still might be an opportunity during the coming lame duck session of Congress, trump is likely to have far less leverage with recalcitrant Republicans then given that they will no longer be itching to get back to their districts and states to campaign for relection.
In addition, a Democratic takeover of one or both houses will kill almost all chances of the wall ever being funded before Trump has to run for relection.
All of this is why I think there’s still a 60 percent (but rising) chance we’ll have a government shutdown this fall.
Follow Stan Collender on Twitter @thebudgetguy