Tag: government shutdown

The Two-Week Delay Makes A Government Shutdown Much Less Likely

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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.

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This Is The Real Reason This Friday’s Shutdown Deadline Might Be Delayed

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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.

Follow Stan Collender on Twitter by clicking here at @thebudgetguy.

Senate GOP Revolt Against Trump Makes A Shutdown Next Week Less Likely

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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.

Follow Stan Collender on Twitter by clicking here at @thebudgetguy.

Trump Is Again Playing Hamlet Over Shutting Down The Government

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“To shut down or not to shut down” is what Donald Trump is yet again agonizing over right before our eyes.

I first posted about Trump’s tendency to be overly melodramatic about this question in September when he endlessly shared his thoughts about whether he would shut down the government if he didn’t get the money he wanted to start construction on his wall between the United States and Mexico. One day it was yes (“to be”) and the next day it was maybe or no (‘not to be”).

And some days it was both and, therefore, the Trump version of the whole soliloquy from “Hamlet.”

Ultimately, the answer was no shutdown. Despite his repeated threats that it was funds for his wall or else, Trump ultimately signed a continuing resolution without getting anything. In the end, he wussed out.

This may not say much about what Trump is going to do this time. After all, the situation is somewhat different given the impending Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives in less than six weeks and the perception by many that this is Trump’s last chance to fund his wall.

But given that big change, it’s noteworthy that Trump seems to be just as conflicted about a shutdown now as he was back in September. He continues to be anything but resolute and is using very Hamlet-like conditional language (“would” and “could” instead of “will”) to explain what he might do.

And his answer not only has changed daily, it’s been changing hourly. As reported today by Jacqueline Alemany in The Washington PostTrump said two very different things in separate interviews on Wednesday. He told the Post “he was open to Plan B” if Congress didn’t provide the full $5 billion he wants for his wall but told Politico that he was ‘totally willing’ to shut the government down in the fight.”

All of this points out two very important things as far as a government shutdown next week is concerned.

First, Trump himself is not yet sure about either what he wants to or will do.

Second, anything Trump says each day between now and midnight next Friday must be taken with a whole shaker rather than just a grain of salt.

Follow Stan Collender on Twitter by clicking here at @thebudgetguy.

Trump May Not Really Want A Government Shutdown Now Over His Wall

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I’ve consistently been one of the most bullish people about the possibility of government shutdowns. I’ve seen one around every corner, behind every door and under every rug.

But I’m changing my stripes — or animals — from bull to bear over the potential Trump-induced shutdown this December that some think is close to inevitable. It may be far less likely than many are assuming.

If there is a fight, it will be over funding for the wall President Trump wants built between the United States and Mexico. GOP leaders talked Trump into waiting until after the election to make a stand and, with the continuing resolution set to expire in less than two weeks (take a look at the countdown clock on the budgetguy.blog’s home page for the exact number of days as of when you read this), the deadline is rapidly approaching.

But is the showdown rapidly approaching as well?

On the one hand, it makes sense for Trump to push now for the $5 billion (out of what’s been reported to be a total cost of $25 billion or more) he wants for his wall in fiscal 2019. With Republican control of the House of Representatives about to end, this December could be Trump’s last chance to get it.

Trump has shown himself to be a total wimp when it comes to making good on his previous threats to shut the government.

Or, if he waits until the next Congress, the only way Trump might get the funds may be to make a deal with the new Democratic House majority that will likely want something he finds especially distasteful — his tax returns, compliance by his family and cabinet with congressional subpoenas, etc. — in exchange.

If that’s his thinking, a shutdown this December will be a real possibility.

But that might not be his thinking.

Trump may actually prefer not to get his wall this December because it may be politically better for him to:

1. Keep the issue of the wall alive over the next two years so he can continue to use it as he runs for reelection.

2. Use the issue to enrage and motivate his base over immigration.

3. Blame the next Congress’s Democrat-controlled House rather than this Congress’s Republican-controlled House and Senate for not providing the funding.

For all his chest thumping, tweet-storming and budget braggadocio, Trump has shown himself to be a total wimp over shutting the government. Rather than vetoing an appropriation that didn’t have the money he wanted for his wall, Trump has repeatedly…and very noticeably…backed down.

That’s one of this biggest reasons that what Trump said to reporters just a week or so ago –“This would be a very good time to do a shutdown” — wasn’t taken as anything but more of his huffing and puffing and yet another empty threat to blow the government’s house down.

It’s also one of the big reasons there may not be as much to this latest shutdown ultimatum as it appears.

Follow Stan Collender on Twitter by clicking here on @thebudgetguy.

A Government Shutdown This December? Maybe Not.

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When, in late September, President Trump acceded to the Republican congressional leadership’s demand that he not shut the federal government before the midterm elections, the very common assumption among budget wonks and political analysts was that he would shut it when the continuing resolution expired the first week in December.

I’m not so sure.

The basics of the situation are quite simple. Only five of the annual appropriations for the current fiscal year have been enacted so far and all of the agencies and departments covered by the remaining 7 are only funded through December 7. If Congress and the president don’t enact full-year appropriations or another short-term continuing resolution by then, those agencies and departments will be forced to shut down.

The sole issue is the wall Trump wants to build between the United States and Mexico. Trump says he either gets the funds (anywhere from a $5 billion initial payment to $25 billion for what we’ve been told is the full cost) or he’ll veto the appropriation that doesn’t include it.

But that was before the election results significantly changed the political environment.

There are three things to keep in mind as December 7 approaches.

1. Does Trump Want An Actual Wall Or Just An Issue? The new reality is that, with a Democrat-controlled House next year, it may make more political sense for Trump to keep the wall issue alive through the next Congress — especially if he’ll be able to blame House Democrats for it not being funded — than to get his funding now.

“The wall” isn’t the real issue anyway; it’s just a way for Trump and other Republicans to appeal to the GOP base on immigration without using language that others will find offensive.

Given how much Trump relied on immigration in the midterms, it’s a safe bet that he’ll want to keep the issue alive and to make it a major focus of his reelection campaign over the next two years. One of the best ways to do that will be not to make a stand that it be funded now.

2. Trump Will Have Multiple Opportunities To Raise The Wall Issue Next Year. If having the issue of the wall rather than the wall itself is Trump’s most important consideration, then next year will give him more opportunities than usual to keep it alive. The debt ceiling, the fiscal 2020 budget resolution, the 2020 appropriations and, if Congress doesn’t do full-year 2019 appropriations in the lame duck, another CR or omnibus, could make the wall a never-ending issue through 2019. That won’t be the case if the wall is funded in the lame duck.

3. In Reality, Trump Is A Federal Budget Wuss. When it comes to the federal budget, Trump is the anti-Teddy Roosevelt: he speaks loudly but carries a very small stick. Time and again he has sworn to shut down the government over funding for his wall only to back down for one reason or another.

The two most recent examples are very instructive. In March, Congress adopted a fiscal 2018 omnibus appropriation without funding for his wall that Trump repeatedly and vociferously promised to veto until, under pressure from members of his own administration and GOP congressional leaders, he signed it. Trump then immediately vowed to never sign another appropriation without funds for his wall and kept insisting he would veto the next CR…until he very meekly signed that this September.

Of course, there are multiple Trump tweets like the ones below threatening a shutdown that have never resulted in the government actually shutting down.

None of this means there won’t be a government shutdown this December, only that there are reasons to think it may not be as probable as many currently believe.

Follow Stan Collender on Twitter at @thebudgetguy.

Trump Will Say Democrats Stole The 2018 Election…And 7 Other Predictions

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Less than a month before the election, about a month before the start of the lame duck session of Congress, a little over about 50 days before the next government shutdown deadline on December 7 and less than three months before the next Congress begins, these 8 things are both keeping me up at night and giving me nightmares while I’m awake.

It’s therapeutic (at least for me) to share them.

1. Trump Will Insist The Democrats Stole The 2018 Election

If Democrats win one or both houses of Congress this November, Trump will insist that it happened because (1) they colluded with the Russians or Chinese, (2) they hacked the election results in all 50 states, (3) illegal immigrants voted in record numbers or (4) all of the above. Trump will say he has information proving that the results weren’t a referendum on him, that he doesn’t plan to change a thing and that he will make the Democrats pay for stealing the election.

Then see #s 5,6, 7 and 8 below.

2. Big Federal Budget Deficits Are Now Permanent

The Trump administration will soon verify what the Congressional Budget Office reported last week.  When the U.S. Treasury releases its monthly statement for   September, it will confirm that the fiscal 2018 federal budget deficit increased to close to $800 billion dollars this past year and will be at or above $1 trillion for 2019.

But that will be just the beginning.  With more tax cuts about to be considered (see #3), a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan likely to be enacted at some point in the next few years, hurricanes and other disasters almost certainly on the horizon and no serious revenue increases or spending reductions likely to be considered, $1 trillion or higher federal budget deficits are now a permanent part of the U.S. economy and American politics. The previous political goal of projecting on paper (let alone actually achieving) a balanced budget in 10 years is now gone…forever.

3. Another Huge Tax Cut Will Happen This Year

I’m increasingly convinced that, during the lame duck, the Senate will take up the tax cut the House passed just before it recessed for the election. My sources on Capitol Hill tell me that preparations are already underway for Congress to quickly adopt a budget resolution at the start of the lame duck just so the Senate will be able to avoid a filibuster on the tax bill.

This will increase the deficit by another $600 billion to $700 billion over the next decade, and much more after that.

4. The Budget Deficit Will Reach $2 Trillion By 2024

There will be an economic downturn at some point over the next few years. Combined with #2 and #3 above, this will increase the deficit to close to $2 trillion.

5. Trump Will Ignore Democratic Subpoenas And Set Off A Huge Appropriations Fight

The common assumption seems to be that, if the Democrats are in the majority in one or both houses of Congress next year, as part of official committee investigations they will inundate the Trump administration with subpoenas for documents and witnesses. Not only do I seriously doubt that the White House will meekly comply with these subpoenas, I expect the president to routinely assert every possible reason that he doesn’t have to do so.

Yes, the courts will then get involved. But I also expect congressional Democrats to use next year’s appropriations process to push the administration to comply. It wouldn’t be shocking, for example, if Democrats threaten the funding for several assistant secretaries and the White House counsel in response to the White House’s stonewalling.

6. Shutdown Showdowns Are About To Become Even More Of A Thing

There will be multiple shutdown fights for two reasons.  First, Trump may not agree to full-year funding in any form (a continuing resolution, omnibus appropriation or Department of Homeland Security appropriation) without money for his wall. He’s far more likely to agree to a series of short-term funding bills that allow him to keep raising the issue, especially if he’s able to blame a Democratic majority for the wall not happening. That will set up frequent shutdown threats every year.

Second, see #5.

7. Trump Will Precipitate A Debt Ceiling Fight Sooner Than Expected

The federal debt ceiling was suspended by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 until March 1, 2019, and the overwhelming assumption is that the Treasury will use “extraordinary measures” (the Washington equivalent of getting a cash advance on one credit card to make a payment on another) to delay raise the debt ceiling until September.

But just because Treasury has always used extraordinary measures in the past doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to use them this time. Trump could easily at least threaten not to use these bookkeeping gimmicks at all or to stop using them at some point before September if the president doesn’t get something (such as funding for his wall, a space force and a military parade) he wants in return.

8. Trump 2020 Budget Will Be An Even Bigger Political Statement

The first two Trump budgets basically were campaign brochures masquerading as official federal documents. The next Trump budget — fir fiscal 2020 budget — will be released as his reelection efforts formally get underway and so will have very little to do with governing. It will be largely forgotten on Capitol Hill within two weeks of it being released.

Click Here To Follow Stan Collender on Twitter @thebudgetguy