Tag: wall

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.

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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

Trump Is About To Kiss His Wall Goodbye

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Donald Trump is about to give away what could be his last chance to get Congress to fund the wall he wants built between the Unites States and Mexico.

Trump wanted $5 billion for his wall this year, but the Republican-controlled Congress once again refused to appropriate anything for it in either the five full-year appropriations or the continuing resolution it has sent to the White House.

Trump could express his displeasure and disappointment over Congress refusing yet again to fund his wall by vetoing the CR, triggering a government shutdown and forcing a showdown with Congress over the issue, and for a time it looked and sounded like he might do just that.

But rather than make a stand over funding for his wall, Trump stated yesterday during an appearance in New York with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he would not shut the government before the election over this issue.

Trump, the president who always claims he’s great at dealmaking, let the supposedly friendly GOP-controlled Congress play him big time. Congress didn’t want a pre-election shutdown, gave Trump absolutely nothing for his wall to get his cooperation and then called his bluff by in effect telling him to take it or leave it.

And, rather than trying to cut any kind of deal with the House and Senate controlled by his own party, Trump took it.

in other words, for all of his bluster and promises over the past six months that he wouldn’t sign a CR, omnibus appropriation or regular appropriation if it didn’t fund his wall, Trump folded.

Trump didn’t even get a promise from the GOP congressional leadership that it would fund his wall in the lame duck session of Congress. All House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told the president was that a shutdown after the election would be better than a shutdown before…and he bought it.

It’s very likely that the lame duck Congress won’t provide funds for Trump’s wall given that it has repeatedly refused to do so up to now and the retiring and defeated members will be less reliable votes for the White House.

Funding for the wall will be even less likely if the Democratic wave many are expecting in this election actually occurs and is interpreted by Republicans as a rejection of Trump and his policies.

And a Democratic House and/or Senate majority over the next two years is even less likely to fund Trump’s wall that the Republican majorities have been the past two years.

Trump still has three days to change his mind and veto the take-it-or-leave it deal Congress is offering him. If he doesn’t, Trump’s wall may never be heard from again.

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.

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

 

When Will Trump Realize He’s Being Played By Ryan And McConnell On The Shutdown And His Wall?

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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) supposedly have convinced President Donald Trump that he shouldn’t consider shutting down the federal government over funding for the wall he wants to build between the United States and Mexico until the coming lame duck session of Congress, that is, until after the mid-term elections.

This makes a great deal of sense from Ryan’s and McConnell’s perspective given that the continued GOP control of the House and Senate seems to be in increasing jeopardy. One of the last things they want a month before November is a Trump-caused government shutdown that the congressional Republicans running for reelection have to explain and defend.

But there are several reasons it doesn’t make much sense for Trump.

First, Ryan and McConnell have repeatedly promised Trump that they would get him the funding for his wall at some later date…and have never delivered on that promise.

Second, Ryan is a lame duck speaker who will have far less incentive after the election to do anything Trump wants on the wall.

When will Trump realize that the timing Ryan and McConnell are suggesting for a possible government shutdown is much better for them than it is for him?

Third, defeated and retiring members of Congress generally are not as cooperative or politically reliable after the election as they were before and, if the polls are correct, there will lots of defeated Republicans this November joining the already large number of those who are retiring.

Finally, and most important, the legislative battle over keeping the government open before the election rather than after is very likely to be Trump’s last chance to get funding for his wall given the leverage he’ll have over Republicans at that time.

In addition, if the Democrats do gain the majority in one or both houses of Congress (or even just pick up substantial number of seats), they will immediately claim a mandate to be a check on Trump and will be far less willing to compromise.

At the same time, congressional Republicans will look at the election results and not feel as obligated to follow Trump blindly as thy do now.

The question is if…or when…Trump will realize that the timing Ryan and McConnell are suggesting for a possible government shutdown is much better for them than it is for him.

And that they’re playing him like a fiddle.

Trump’s Latest Shutdown Threat Keeps Chances Of It Happening At 60%

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I’m keeping my prediction of a government shutdown happening this fall at 60 percent.

There were lots of questions about my 60 percent number after Donald Trump seemed to come to an agreement with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) last week over funding for the wall he wants to build between the U.S. and Mexico.

But Trump has again proved that he can’t be taken at his word about a shutdown. He tweeted this out a little after 9 am EDT this morning.

Today’s tweet provides some important clues as to the possibility of a shutdown.

First, Trump is using the threat of a shutdown to raise the immigration issue with his base. As I’ve said before, that may be very critical for Trump this fall.

Second, he’s signalling that he’ll blame House and Senate Democrats and, therefore, telling the congressional GOP leadership that the shutdown they’re desperate to avoid is less important to him than the wall.

Third, Trump is also telling Ryan and McConnell that he hasn’t yet agreed to anything.

As a result…I’m maintaining my previous estimate that there’s a 60 percent chance of a federal government shutdown this fall. I’m expecting that to go higher in the days ahead.

Follow Stan Collender @thebudgetguy