President Trump: ‘Shutdown Coming?’

January 19, 2018

President Trump is feeding expectations that the federal government is heading toward a midnight shutdown with an early morning tweet Friday aimed at blaming Democrats if there is no deal.

“Government Funding Bill past last night in the House of Representatives. Now Democrats are needed if it is to pass in the Senate – but they want illegal immigration and weak borders. Shutdown coming? We need more Republican victories in 2018!” Trump tweeted at 7:04 a.m. ET.

The White House said Friday morning that Trump will not leave for Florida as planned unless a spending deal is reached.

Republicans are already dubbing it the “Schumer Shutdown” after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who has warned Republicans that they will not have enough Democratic votes to break the 60-vote filibuster threshold.

It is unlikely that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., even has a simple majority to support a House-passed stopgap measure to keep the government running until Feb. 16. Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona have indicated they will oppose it.

“I am not going to support continuing this fiasco for 30 more days by voting for a continuing resolution,” Graham said Thursday. “It’s time Congress stop the cycle of dysfunction, grow up and act consistent with the values of a great nation.”

The Senate is scheduled to convene Friday morning, but lawmakers and aides said there is no consensus on how to head off the impending midnight partial government shutdown.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who runs Senate Democrats’ 2018 campaign operation, told NPR’s Morning Edition that Democrats would support a stopgap measure for three to five days to keep the government running and give negotiators more time to clinch deals in stalled immigration and budget talks.

“I’m not voting for a government shutdown. I’m voting to get an agreement to move forward,” Van Hollen said. “Let’s stay in. Let’s get it done.” The White House and Senate GOP leaders have not yet indicated whether they would accept that offer.

Van Hollen also said Trump, not the Democrats, will shoulder the blame if a shutdown occurs. “If the president of the United States, whether by design or incompetence is going to shut down the government, that is a big problem,” Van Hollen said. “I hope he will show some leadership; he says he’s the great negotiator.”

Shutdowns are usually the product of divided government. A midnight shutdown would be the first time one occurred when the same party controlled both chambers of Congress and the White House.

“The reality is Republicans are united in keeping the government open. Democrats are united in trying to shut it down,” White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short told NPR’s Morning Edition.

Short downplayed the merits of an even shorter stopgap, arguing that negotiators need more time to reach an immigration deal to determine the fate of the hundreds of thousands of people in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program. Trump has ordered the Obama-era DACA program, which protects immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally when they were children, to expire on March 5. “I think we’re making progress on DACA, but I think it’s unrealistic to think there’s going to be a solution in the next five days,” Short said.

The House passed the four-week stopgap on Thursday, 230-197, with just six Democrats voting with Republicans. The measure includes a six-year renewal of the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program and further delays of certain taxes under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

There is ostensibly Democratic support for all of those provisions, but the vast majority of Democrats oppose the stopgap because of the ongoing inability to reach a bipartisan immigration deal. Democrats are also withholding support for a longer-term spending deal until an immigration deal is clinched.

The president has been an erratic negotiator in recent days, throwing already-contentious talks into disarray. After initially suggesting he would support any bipartisan proposal lawmakers could come up with, Trump rejected a proposal authored by Graham, a Republican, and Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., at the advice of more conservative lawmakers and his own top White House aides.

Trump was also seemingly at odds with his own chief of staff, John Kelly, over the president’s continued support for building a physical barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border. Kelly told Fox News that Trump was “flexible” on the wall, to which Trump later tweeted: “The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it.”

Trump further complicated budget negotiations on Thursday with a series of tweets that suggested he opposed the House stopgap bill. The White House put out a statement later that he did support it, and the president ultimately helped win over reluctant House conservatives to vote for the bill.

Most Americans would not feel the effects of a partial government shutdown. However, hundreds of thousands of federal workers would face furloughs, and national parks and museums would close to the public starting early next week.

All national security and military personnel deemed “essential” would continue to report to work, but they wouldn’t get paid. That includes active-duty U.S. troops, unless Congress passes separate legislation to make sure their paychecks go out. Lawmakers, however, face no such threat. Members of Congress continue to get paid in a government shutdown.

It costs more to shut down the government than to keep it running. Standard & Poor’s estimated that the 2013 government shutdown, lasting 16 days, cost the economy $24 billion and shaved 0.6 percent off the economic growth for the fourth quarter that year.

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