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.