First, in spite of the polls showing that he’s being held responsible for the government shutdown and his pre-shutdown bragging that he would be proud to be blamed for it happening, Donald Trump apparently believes that he’s winning the shutdown fight. He currently has little incentive to do any differently than he’s currently doing.
Second, after taking their oaths of office, the new House Democratic majority’s immediate effort this week will be to pass legislation that, if enacted, will reopen the federal government. Therefore, House Democrats also have no reason to do anything differently.
Third, the reopen-the-government effort will then fall directly into Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) lap. With the House likely to pass something that almost certainly doesn’t have the votes to pass the Senate, it will be up to McConnell to negotiate some kind of deal with either Trump or House Democrats, take the heat for not being able to do either or cause his Republican majority to take more of the blame for not being able to resolve the situation.
In other words, the shutdown is about to be all about Mitch.
This will be happening at the shutdown witching hour, when the lack of paychecks for federal employees will be hitting the point where there is real economic hardship for them, their families and the businesses that rely on them. Time will be of the essence.
It will also be happening as financial markets will be looking for reasons to stand down from their recent volatility and a shutdown deal (or no deal) will provide one of those.
And it will also be happening as everyone is looking for clues as to how Washington will be able to operate with the new divided political control. This will not just be the first test; it may well turnout to be the biggest test of the year.
McConnell choice will be stark: either try to reinforce Trump’s wishes on the wall or try to talk him into doing something different and perhaps keeping the fight alive.
The worst thing for Trump will be for Mitch to conclude that overriding his veto of a bill that reopens the government is the only way to get out of this situation. It will be politically messy and could put Trump into the kind of tweet storm rant against McConnell that he uses frequently against others. That could send financial markets reeling.
A veto override could also result in Trump looking for even more things to distract attention from what many would consider his worst legislative rebuke ever, especially because it would come by the hands of Senate Republicans.
The most logical solution will be to extend the time so something may be negotiated by reopening the government for another month or so. But this is Trump; logic won’t necessarily be the guiding force unless McConnell is able to convince him that a veto override will be far worse for him in both the long- and short-run.
If McConnell can’t do that, or can’t get the votes for the override he may need, this shutdown is going to set records for political ugliness and ineptitude.
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