Tag: fiscal 2019

Government Shutdown Fight This September Will Be All About Trump

images.jpg

From everything we know about Donald Trump, he wouldn’t want this to happen any other way: A threatened or actual government shutdown at the end of this month is going to be all about him.

There’s not much time left for Congress to do everything that has to be done to prevent the government from turning into a pumpkin on September 30th at midnight. There are only 28 days left before the new fiscal year begins on October 1, but the House and Senate are only scheduled to be in session for 11 of those days.

And it’s not just that Congress has a great deal left to do, it’s that it hasn’t yet adopted any of the 12 appropriations for the coming year. Although the work on a few of these bills supposedly is nearing completion, in this highly partisan, highly emotional and high-political stakes environment where there are significant differences not just between Republicans and Democrats but also between House and Senate Republicans, being close to enacting any these bills may more wishful thinking than solid intelligence.

Check Out This New And Exclusive Discount For TheBudgetGuy Readers To Political Wire!

In addition, in these take-no-prisoner days just before the election, “compromise” will be thought of as collaborating with the enemy rather than good legislating.

So there’s everything left to do, not much time left to do it and less incentive than might be expected to get it done.

The overwhelming likelihood, therefore, is that by October 1 Congress will need to pass and the president sign a continuing resolution to keep the government from shutting down.

In most prior years a CR would have been routine and noncontroversial. This especially would have been the case in a year like this with the House and Senate incumbents running for reelection wanting to get back to their districts or states, with control of the House and/or Senate in doubt, with the members of the current majority wanting few Washington-oriented controversies to interfere with their campaigns and with a lame duck session ahead where final funding decisions could be made.

But this year Congress is not in control of its destiny on a CR. Trump has given strong signals that he won’t sign a funding bill to keep the government open unless he gets what he wants, when he wants it and at the levels he’s demanding.

So far, Trump seems to want three things, all of which will allow him to demonstrate that he’s the straw that’s stirring the federal goverment’s drink.

1. His highest priority so far is the funding for the wall he wants built between the United States and Mexico. Informal estimates have put the cost as high as $30 billion but Trump has indicated he might accept $5 billion in this bill as a down payment.

2. Trump announced last week that, against the Senate’s wishes, he was freezing the pay for federal civilian employees.

3. His space force has been more ammunition for late-night television comedians than a serious conversation on Capitol Hill, but that may not stop Trump from demanding funds in this bill at least to start the planning process.

So far, Congress doesn’t seem inclined to grant Trump any of his three CR wishes.

It has already refused multiple times to provide funding for the wall. Given the serious reelection harm the pay freeze will do to GOP representatives from districts with a high number of federal employees, the Republican majority in the House is very likely to join the Senate and mandate the cost-of-living increases the president doesn’t want. In addition, there’s little-to-no interest on the Hill to do anything about the space force this year.

The whole question, therefore, is what will Trump do if he’s faced with one or more defeats on these three issues?

Up to now, he’s backed down every time. Trump has either accepted the GOP leadership’s promise to consider what he wants to do next time, has huffed and puffed that he wouldn’t sign a bill but then signed it any way or vehemently complained about the legislative process (especially the filibuster) when it prevented him from getting what he wanted.

Trump could keep easily keep this streak going and back down again. On the other hand, there are a variety of reasons this time could be different. For example:

1. The continuing legal threats are clearly increasing the president’s need to divert attention to situations — like a government shutdown — he can control.

2. Trump’s strategy for dealing with Mueller at least in part seems to be to do things that remind his supporters why they voted for him in the first place. Shutting down the government now would be the ultimate way to do this.

3. Having lost on the wall so often before might finally convince Trump that he’s not willing to be fooled again by the GOP congressional leadership.

4. Trump may think that, if there’s a Democratic majority in the House or Senate next year, this will be his last chance to get these things.

The shutdown situation isn’t likely to be decided until the very end of September for two reasons.

First, Congress will probably send the CR to Trump as close to September 30th as possible to limit his options. Adopting it the week before, for example, would give the president a free pass because he could veto it and demand changes without shutting the government.

Second, unless it’s delayed again, the second Manafort trial is scheduled to begin on September 24th and the White House may want to have a big diversion tactic like a shutdown ready to go just in case it is needed.

But no matter when this shutdown debate happens, and even though it’s supposed to be about funding levels, this shutdown fight is going to be far more about all things Trump than anything having to do with the federal budget.

Follow Stan Collender on Twitter @thebudgetguy.

Advertisements

Current 60% Chance Of A Government Shutdown Very Likely To Increase Further

download.jpg

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

 

Get Ready: This Fall’s Federal Budget Debate Will Be A Real Cliffhanger

download.jpg

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

Don’t Leave Just Yet…There’s so much more here:

Attention Conservatives: The Deficit Is Not Just A Spending Problem
Trump’s Space Force Is Really A Space Farce
GOP Won’t Be Able To Hide From It’s Big Deficits Before The Election After All
Trump’s Deficits Will Cause Very Serious Challenges For Multiple Generations Of Americans
Here’s What I Told NPR This Morning About The Deficit (Spoiler Alert: It’s Not Pretty)
Trump’s Economic Lies, Damn Lies And Statistics Revealed For All To See
Raising The Chances Of A Government Shutdown This Fall To 60%
OMB Director Mick Mulvaney Says CBO Was Right After All

 

GOP Won’t Be Able To Hide From It’s Big Deficits Before The Election After All

images.jpg

House and Senate Republicans who so far have successfully avoided talking about how their tax and spending policies are spiking the budget deficit won’t be able to pretend for much longer that the United States isn’t staring directly into a GOP-created fiscal policy abyss.

The U.S. Treasury and the Congressional Budget Office will issue separate reports just weeks before Election Day that show the actual 2018 deficit between $800 and $900 billion and the estimated 2019 deficit exceeding $1 trillion. The fiscal 2017 deficit was $665 billion.

The deficit numbers the GOP had hoped to bury at least until after the election will soon be available for all to see.

House and Senate Republicans so far have been able to avoid talking about the deficit by making a complete mockery of the Congressional Budget Act. Even though Congress is required by federal law to adopt an annual budget resolution (the only legislation all year that compares total revenues with total spending and forces representatives and senators to vote on the deficit), the GOP leadership decided early in 2018 to prevent that from happening.

No budget resolution meant no budget debate. No debate meant no media coverage. No coverage meant Republicans wouldn’t be asked to explain their votes in favor of trillion-dollar deficits when they had previously and emphatically demanded that the federal budget be balanced.

This cleverness will end when Treasury and CBO issue their reports this October in the final days of a fierce election. That will put the GOP’s breach of faith with its fiscal past on full display for all to see, report on, criticize and make snarky 280 character comments about.

download-1 copy.jpg

Given the Trump administration’s efforts to control the narrative on all issues and run roughshod over established rules and procedures, and given the president’s more-than-obvious belief that federal departments exist solely to do his bidding, delaying Treasury’s report until after the election would seem like something it would consider.

But while it’s possible that the White House could concoct a reason to order the report be held until after the election, Treasury’s Monthly Treasury Statement is expected, used and relied on by Wall Street. Delaying it for obvious political reasons may be a theoretical option but just isn’t likely.

In addition, the Congressional Budget Office has shown no willingness whatsoever to knuckle under to political pressure and so will almost certainly release its own Monthly Budget Review this October no matter what the Republican leadership demands it to do.

That means that the deficit numbers the GOP had hoped to bury at least until after the election will soon be publicly available.

This timing could not be worse for Republicans. Congress plans to be out of session by the time these two reports are issued so there will be no chance for the GOP incumbents running for reelection even to do something — like voting for a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution — before the election.

In addition, on top of all the recent multiple swamp-like events involving Trump former and former allies, this soon-to-be-confirmed break with long-time GOP deficit orthodoxy is almost certain to push a number of more traditional Republicans to reconsider if or how they will vote this November.

Don’t Forget To Follow Stan Collender on Twitter @thebudgetguy

Wait…Don’t Leave Just Yet…There’s So Much More:

Trump’s Deficits Will Cause Very Serious Challenges For Multiple Generations Of Americans
Here’s What I Told NPR This Morning About The Deficit (Spoiler Alert: It’s Not Pretty)
Trump’s Economic Lies, Damn Lies And Statistics Revealed For All To See
Ryan And McConnell: Lock’em Up 
This Is Why Trump Will Shut Down The Government
Raising The Chances Of A Government Shutdown This Fall To 60%
OMB Director Mick Mulvaney Says CBO Was Right After All
Yes…Trump Will Shut Down The Government This Fall
You’ve Been Warned: Trump’s Trillion Dollar Budget Deficits Are Here To Stay

 

Yes…Trump Will Shut Down The Government This Fall

Trump finger

The specific issue that will trigger yet another federal government shutdown showdown this September will be Donald Trump’s seemingly pathological obsession with building a wall between the United States and Mexico.

Trump wants $25 billion to fully fund it, the GOP-controlled Congress so far has refused multiple times to provide it and the two sides are going to face off again about it in September when, because of the very slow action on the fiscal 2019 appropriations, a continuing resolution will be needed to keep the government operating.

Trump so far has backed down every time he previously threatened to shut the government over this issue. All it took was a vague promise by the Republican leadership that full funding for his wall would be considered next time or pressure from within his own administration to sign a bill without the funds to get the president to go along.

That’s why the common political wisdom is that Trump will back down again given that he so far has been the anti Teddy Roosevelt by speaking loudly but carrying a small stick.

And with the current GOP House and Senate majorities at risk, the White House theoretically shouldn’t want to keep the Republican representatives and senators running for reelection in Washington when they could be home campaigning and holding fundraisers. After all, much of Trump’s political success will depend on continued Republican majorities in both houses of Congress.

But there are 4 main reasons why what happens with Trump and the shutdown this time could be very different from what has come before.

First, Trump may see this as his last opportunity to get funding for his wall. If the Democrats win the majority this November, the chances of the wall being funded over the next two years will be close to zero.

The common political wisdom is that Trump will back down again given that he so far has been the anti Teddy Roosevelt by speaking loudly but carrying a small stick.

Second, a Trump-induced shutdown this September over full funding for the wall may be perceived by the White House as the best immigration issue to inflame his base just before the midterm election and, therefore, counter the enthusiasm gap about voting between Democrats and Republicans. If higher Trump-voter enthusiasm translates into continuing GOP House and Senate majorities, this year won’t be the last chance to get funding for the wall.

Third, Trump may look at the GOP congressional leadership’s strong desire to get its members home to campaign as increased leverage to get the full $25 billion because there will be an immediate negative impact — having to stay in Washington — if they don’t do what he wants.

Fourth, especially if his Supreme Court nominee is confirmed by the Senate and the economy remains strong, Trump may be feeling politically invincible this fall. To him, that would make this the perfect time to shut down the government because he will be able to blame others for it.

There’s much more here:

Pruitt And Kennedy Leaving Increases The Chances Of Government Shutdown To Over 50%

The House and Senate Appropriations Committee Are A Total Disgrace

The Definitive Larry Kudlow Take Down

Congress Could Use The Budget Process To Stop Trump’s Child Separation Policy

You’ve Been Warned: Trump’s Trillion Dollar Budget Deficits Are Here To Stay

 

This Was The Worst Week EVER For GOP Federal Budget Nonsense

 

There was so much Trump White House-caused and GOP Congress-induced nonsense (and definitely I’m pulling my punches here) last week on almost everything having to do with the federal budget that it’s impossible to pick the worst of the lot.

Maybe it was Donald Trump confirming what budget wonks like me have been predicting for some time: There’s a real chance he’ll throw a tantrum this fall and shutdown the federal government if he doesn’t get the $25 billion dollars he wants for his wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

Or maybe it was the president telling the Pentagon to start a new space force (Flash Gordon lives! See below) even though Congress hasn’t provided an appropriation for it.

Perhaps it was that (contrary to recently established Republican and Trump orthodoxy that an authorization is needed for every appropriation) the Trump space force hasn’t even been authorized yet so no appropriation (according to the GOP) should be possible.

(FYI…Contrary to what Republicans say, there is no constitutional or statutory requirement for authorizations.)

It could be the House and Senate Appropriations Committees refusing to do their jobs by not asking where the White House is getting the money to pay for everything involved in separating children from their families.

Then again, it really could be the Senate’s outright rejection of one of Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney’s highest priorities — the first of what we’ve repeatedly been told will be multiple “rescission” bills.

The GOP Senate majority rejected the Trump rescission even though it would have mostly cut previously enacted appropriations that were never going to be spent anyway.

Of course, it could be the federal government consolidation plan that Mulvaney announced (and made sure he himself got credit for developing) but which at this point in the congressional session has little-to-no chance of being considered and even less of being adopted.

(Consider this: Mulvaney couldn’t even get the GOP-controlled Senate to approve a rescission plan that was almost totally symbolic. How is he ever going to convince it to do a massive reorganization that will have a far more negative political impact?)

There was also the House Budget Committee’s approval of a fiscal 2019 budget resolution that was adopted more than two months after the statutory deadline for Congress as a whole — not just a committee — to agree on something.

But missing the deadline by two-plus months was actually far less ludicrous than the fact that the committee-approved budget resolution includes $5.4 trillion in politically unacceptable cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and other mandatory programs that may never be voted on by the full House and won’t be considered by the Senate.

In other words, the House Budget Committee was both very late and doing something that was incredibly superfluous. Saying that it was “symbolic” is giving it way to much credit.

And all this happened just this past week.

 

There’s much more here:

Congress Could Use The Budget Process To Stop Trump’s Child Separation Policy

You’ve Been Warned: Trump’s Trillion Dollar Budget Deficits Are Here To Stay

Fasten Your Seat Belts: It’s Going To Be A Very Bumpy Rest Of The Year In Washington

Fasten Your Seat Belts: It’s Going To Be A Very Bumpy Rest Of The Year In Washington

In the midst of all of the tweet storms, special counsel and criminal investigations, deep state conspiracy paranoias, off and on summits, tariffs imposed on our allies and multiple pardons, it’s easy to forget that Congress and the White House still have routine legislative responsibilities — like appropriations — that will need to be completed over the next few months.

These legislative responsibilities could include the most contentious domestic issues the Republican-controlled Congress and Trump administration will have to deal with all year such as Planned Parenthood, immigration, a wall between the United States and Mexico and multiple highly contentious domestic spending cuts.

Each one’s political significance will be greatly magnified by the very narrow GOP Senate majority, the hyper-partisanship, a lame duck speaker, almost 50 GOP retirements in the House, an abandoned budget process, a very unpredictable president and an extremely high stakes congressional election that’s only five months away.

In other words…To paraphrase Betty Davis in “All About Eve,” Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy rest of 2018 in Washington.

According to Congress.gov, as of today, none of the 12 funding bills for fiscal 2019 have passed Congress.

It’s not unusual for no appropriations to be approved by now. But there’s usually more time between June and when the fiscal year begins on October 1 for Congress to do what needs to be done than there will be this year.

If the published schedules aren’t changed, the House now only plans to be in session for 35 more days before fiscal 2019 begins; the Senate only expects to be in session for 51 days, although Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) indicated last week that some or all of the Senate’s August recess will be cancelled.

But 35, 51 or some other number very likely overstates the actual amount of time that will be available for legislative work given Congress’s tendency not to take many votes on Mondays and Fridays.

This very limited about of time would be problematic in a good year if House and Senate Republicans were working together, the House Freedom Caucus wasn’t making Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) final days as speaker miserable as it did on the recent agriculture bill and the president wasn’t demanding funds for a wall that Congress has refused to provide multiple times.

But with all of these things happening, the very limited amount of time that’s left makes “problematic” into the best-case scenario this year.

It also makes yet another continuing resolution – which in recent years has become the unfortunate but very standard operating procedure on Capitol Hill — an almost sure bet to be needed to prevent a government shutdown just before the election.

And because CRs can be filibustered, that will give Senate Democrats influence over a short-term funding bill that, with their changes, isn’t likely to be acceptable to the House Freedom Caucus or the White House.

In theory, Trump should want to do what Ryan and McConnell want: put a CR in place as early as possible so Congress can recess quickly and GOP incumbents running for reelection have as much time as possible to defend their seats.

In fact, Ryan and McConnell should be seriously considering doing a continuing resolution before the start of the August-Labor Day recess that will keep the government operating through the lame duck session so Congress can stay home in September as well.

But Trump is more likely to view his own congressional leadership’s strong desire to recess before the election as something that gives him leverage to get his wall rather than as a way to make continuing GOP House and Senate majorities more certain.

Add to that the extreme displeasure from conservative commentators after he signed the 2018 omnibus appropriation in March and the fact that healthcare and immigration are hot button issues for the White House, congressional Republicans and Democrats, having a CR in place in time to prevent a government shutdown has to be considered anything but certain.

But even if a continuing resolution is enacted by October 1, the road to get there will be anything but smooth. It is likely to set the new bar for bumpy rides in Washington.