Tag: Space Force

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.

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Trump’s Space Force Is Really A Space Farce

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It’s not at all clear whether Donald Trump’s space force plan appeals to Star Trek, Star Wars or Flash Gordon fans (for the record, my favorite character was Captain Pickard on TNG), but it definitely demonstrates that Trump doesn’t understand or care about the U.S. legislative process, congressional politics or the federal budget.

Legislation. Except in extreme situations, Congress’s typical response throughout U.S. history has almost always been what the framers of the Constitution intended: incremental changes and no rush to judgement. Enemy attacks and weather-related natural disasters have usually prompted a more rapid congressional reaction, as have the need to respond to challenges to the American psyche like Russia’s launch of Sputnik.

But the space force is not (or Trump hasn’t made the case yet) the result of an emergency that requires immediate action and the rapid creation of a new branch of the U.S. military. To the contrary, the White House’s space force announcement this past week left the very definite impression that this was anything but a dire situation that required immediate action.

Think about it.

1. Trump remained on his golfing vacation instead of dramatically returning to Washington, asking House and Senate leaders to call Congress back into session or making a nationally televised speech to demand rapid action.

2. Rather than make the ask himself, Trump had his vice president release the space force plan.

3. The written space force plan was barely an outline and gave the very clear impression that it was put together quickly without much thought.

4. The Trump 2020 reelection campaign has already said it plans to sell space force gear.

Contrast that with President John Kennedy’s speech in 1962 at Rice University where he announced his plan for the United States to go to the moon. As you watch the video clip below, note that Lyndon Johnson, Kennedy’s vice president and an icon in Texas where the speech was made, was sitting behind him. Note too that Kennedy provided the reason for his plan when he said this would enable the U.S. to “win” the space race that Russia had started.

Congressional Politics. The White House didn’t arrange for the GOP congressional leadership or all the House and Senate Republican members on the key military authorization committees and appropriations subcommittees to be at the announcement. There also didn’t appear to be any strong effort to get the military behind it or to prevent the Pentagon and its allies from saying less-than-favorable things.

For example, Retired General Marty Dempsey, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tweeted this out on Friday.

Along with what appears to be a lack of collaboration by the White House that will be seen as a slight, this message to Congress not to move quickly by a Pentagon ally is one of the traditional excuses representatives and senators use not to take any action. Trump and his people should have known this.

The Budget. The Trump space force plan was revealed the day before the Treasury confirmed what thebudgetguy.blog and the rest of the federal budget wonk world has long been saying: the deficit is soaring because of the other Trump and GOP tax-loss and spending-increase policies. At the same time Washington’s soaring red ink was revealed for all to see, Trump was proposing to increase it further with billions, or hundreds of billions of dollars of even more spending.

Or maybe not. Trump might be proposing to fund the space force with cuts to other Pentagon programs, or to NASA, or to Social Security and Medicare. Or perhaps Trump wants a space force surtax, or possibly a federal user fee on all those who book a ticket on commercial trips to the Moon.

The space force plan omitted the budget details.

Also confusing as far as the budget is concerned is why Trump is pushing it now, with only about 50 calendar days (and about 15 legislative days) left before the start of fiscal 2019. There is virtually no chance that the space force will make it into any of the appropriations. Even a directive for a study will have trouble being approved.

At least for now, all of this means that Trump’s space force is more of a space farce than anything else. It’s much more likely to be an answer on a future episode of Jeopardy than a moment historians will note.

Follow Stan Collender on Twitter @thebudgetguy

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

Treasury Confirms Trump’s Huge Budget Deficits Are Real
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
You’ve Been Warned: Trump’s Trillion Dollar Budget Deficits Are Here