Tag: government shutdown

Trump Has Become Hamlet. To Shut Down Or Not To Shutdown: That Is The Question

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The question of whether President Donald Trump will shut down the federal government has now become the budget equivalent of a scene from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” with Trump endlessly reciting his own version of the “To be or not to be” soliloquy.

As a result, with just 7 legislative days to go before the end of the fiscal year, and even though congressional Republican leaders are trying hard to prevent it from happening, there’s still little-to-no certainty about whether Trump will cause the government to shut its doors if he doesn’t get the billions of dollars he wants to build a wall between the United States and Mexico.

Trump has become less rather than more predictable over the past few weeks as the shutdown deadline has gotten closer and as he’s become preoccupied with Mueller, Cohen, Manafort, Sessions, Papadopoulos, the Woodward book, the anonymous New York Times op-ed, his increasing disapproval in the polls and Republicans’ apparent declining prospects in the mid-term elections.

It became obvious last week when Trump’s “Hamlet”-like erratic behavior on the shutdown was on full display.

First he was quoted by the Daily Caller last Tuesday saying he didn’t “like the idea of a shutdown” and wouldn’t cause one before the election. But on Wednesday he seemed to change his mind telling reporters “if (a shutdown) happens, it happens.”

There’s still little-to-no certainty about whether Trump will cause the government to shut its doors.

The next day, Trump said on “Fox and Friends” that he wouldn’t shut down the government before the election but would instead wait until afterwards in the lame duck session of Congress so the shutdown wouldn’t have negative political repercussions for Republicans.

But then on Friday, as The Washington Post’s John Dawsey, who was on the plane, tweeted that Trump told reporters on Air Force One the opposite of what he had indicated on Thursday: A shutdown would be good for the Republicans running for reelection this November.

Last week demonstrated that what Trump says on any given day greatly depends on who he has just talked to. Early last week it was House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), both of whom argued against a shutdown…and Trump agreed.

Trump took his cues later in the week from the people who attended his rallies and responded very enthusiastically when he mentioned a shutdown…and he agreed.

By Friday, Trump cited right-wing icons Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin as encouraging him to shut down the government to force Congress to give him what he wants for his wall…and once again Trump agreed.

So far Trump has repeatedly huffed and puffed about shutting the government only to back down at the last-minute either in response to a vague promise by Ryan and McConnell to get him his funding later or in response to pleas from the White House staff to sign whatever Congress has sent him.

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But even though Ryan, McConnell and the White House staff will all be part of the play again this time and the outcome may be the same, there will also be several new scenes and characters.

For example, Trump is scheduled to be on the road holding rallies and campaigning for Republicans two more days in September. The pro-shutdown crowds that will be there could have a substantial impact on his thinking.

In addition, Hannity et al. may try to stay in closer touch with Trump over the next few weeks than they have in the past to thwart Ryan, McConnell and the White House staff’s inevitable attempt at last-minute influence.

And, of course, Mueller, Manafort, Sessions and the others will sill be around.

All of this means that the outcome of this shutdown fight, like “Hamlet,” won’t be known until the last act. For the shutdown, that probably means very late on September 30th.

It’s important for Trump to remember, however, that “Hamlet,” while a critical success, was also one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies.

Follow Stan Collender on Twitter @thebudgetguy.

 

 

 

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Trump’s Latest Promise For No Shutdown Doesn’t Even Last Until Lunch

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I said in this post yesterday that I was unwilling to accept the statement Trump made earlier that afternoon that he wouldn’t cause a government shutdown as anything that would remain in place past lunch (EDT) on Thursday. That was posted at about 3:30 pm.

Turns out I was giving Trump way too much credit. As Politico pointed out, by 5:30 p.m. EDT, about 16 hours before Thursday lunch in Washington, Trump had completely changed his position and said about a federal shutdown, ““If it happens, it happens.”

According to Politico, Trump said:

“If it’s about border security, I’m willing to do anything. We have to protect our borders. If we don’t protect our borders, our country is not going to be a country. So, if it’s about border security, I’m willing to do what has to be done.”

As I said yesterday, Trump continues to be “consistently inconsistent” about a shutdown so everything he says about it on any day should be taken with at least a grain, if not a whole shaker, of salt.

Bottom line: There’s still a 60 percent chance of a shutdown.

 

Follow Stan Collender on Twitter @thebudgetguy.

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Should We Believe Trump When He Says There Will Be No Shutdown?

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Reuters reported on Wednesday that President Donald Trump said there would be no federal government shutdown before the election this November. According to Political WireTrump said, “I don’t like the idea of shutdowns. I don’t see even myself or anybody else closing down the country right now.”

It’s important to ask what Trump means by “right now.”

If this was even close to a normal presidency Trump’s latest statement would immediately get me to reduce what I had said was a 60 percent chance of a shutdown this fall.

But…and to be kind…Trump is not a “traditional” president and this is anything but a normally operating White House.

First, Trump has changed his mind so often on government shutdowns that it’s impossible to know what he really thinks about them. From tweets calling for a “good ‘shutdown'” to rants saying he would never sign another omnibus appropriation if it didn’t include money for his wall between the U.S. and Mexico to his repeatedly backing down from previous threats, Trump’s stance on shutting down the government has been consistently inconsistent.

Second, shutdowns aside, nothing Trump says on any particular day should be taken as gospel. As this great story by Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly in The Washington Post details, Trump has made 4,713 false or misleading statements in his first 592 days in office. As a result, he definitely doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt about his current position on a shutdown.

Third, there’s almost no doubt in my mind that, as they have in the past, Republican congressional leaders promised Trump something in return for his Reuter’s-reported statement, something they may not be able or plan to deliver. If and when Trump realizes that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are playing him…again…all current shutdown bets will be off.

Fourth, we still can’t discount Trump’s needs to divert attention away from Mueller, Manafort, Cohen and now Bob Woodward’s new book. And with Manafort’s second trial set to begin just a week before fiscal 2019 starts and Trump confidant Roger Stone seemingly about to get indicted, the biggest diversion of all will be a shutdown.

Because of all this, I’m unwilling to accept the Trump statement that he won’t cause a government shutdown as anything that will stay in place long-term, that is, past lunch (EDT) tomorrow.

Follow Stan Collender on Twitter @thebudgetguy.

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Government Shutdown Fight This September Will Be All About Trump

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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.

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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.

We Now Have To Add The Trump Federal Employee Pay Freeeze To The Reasons Trump Might Shut Down The Government

 

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Donald Trump has added another reason he might cause a government shutdown a month from now: no pay raise for federal employees of domestic federal agencies and departments.

Trump notified House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Thursday that he was cancelling the pay raise for the majority of federal civilian workers. (There was nothing to indicate that he was also cancelling the planned 2.6 percent increase for the military.)

Congress can, and in my estimation probably will, reject this. The House and Senate will likely put language that mandates the civilian pay raise in the continuing resolution that will be needed by October 1 to keep the government open.

The question then will be what will Trump with a CR that very openly defies him.

Vetoing the CR and shutting down the government is a real possibility.

The Senate has already approved a pay raise for federal civilian employees. The House is more than likely to go along with the Senate provision because not doing so would put Republican incumbents from districts with large numbers of federal employees in critical jeopardy of not being reelected.

Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA), who represents Northern Virginia, immediately comes to mind as a GOPer who would be in serious trouble if civilian employees were denied a pay raise. Not surprisingly, Comstock issued a statement opposing Trump’s freeze earlier today.

In an election where a Democratic takeover of at least the House is considered a definite possibility, making Comstock and several other Republicans more vulnerable and putting the GOP majority in further doubt makes absolutely no political sense.

There are two reasons why Trump would veto the CR and shutdown the government over this issue.

First, the CR would be abject defiance, something we know Trump doesn’t handle well or rationally.

Second, the pay raise is the kind of emotional issue that will appeal to Trump voters and, given Mueller et. al., Trump is likely to be eager to show his base that he’s more than willing to punish the federal government/deep state for all its sins.

That puts the civilian federal pay raise almost on the same level as the billions of dollars Trump is demanding to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico as a possible reason for a government shutdown this year. They’re both anything-but-substantive issues that Trump can use to remind his voters why they voted for him in the first place.

That means both that there are now two potential shutdown issues and that a Trump-induced government shutdown a month from today even more likely than it was before.

Follow Stan Collender on Twitter @thebudgetguy

 

 

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

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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