Shutdown Politics

As recently as Tuesday, it looked as though President Trump and Congressional Republicans had given up on holding out for $5 billion to finance construction of a border wall as part of the current spending package. Mitch McConnell derided the idea of a shutdown, and said the administration is “extremely flexible on this issue.”

That caused extensive blowback from the right. Ann Coulter, for one, referred to President Trump as “gutless.” Suddenly Trump swung into action, and the House, in its last days under GOP control, passed a stopgap spending bill that includes funding for the wall. Now the ball is in the Senate’s court:

The Senate on Friday was scrambling to take up a spending package with billions in funding for a border wall, as President Trump made clear there’s a “good chance” for a partial government shutdown at midnight.

The House on Thursday approved $5.7 billion for a border wall as part of a measure to fund the government through early February. But the Senate on Friday afternoon was struggling to overcome a procedural hurdle to even set up a vote on the bill, amid Democrats’ refusal to give in on a border wall.

“President Trump: you will not get your wall,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the floor. “Abandon your shutdown strategy. You’re not getting the wall today, next week or on January 3rd, when Democrats take control of the House.”

President Trump has urged McConnell to get rid of the filibuster so the spending bill can pass without Democrat support, but that isn’t going to happen:

Earlier in the day, the president publicly urged McConnell to deploy the so-called “nuclear option” to jam through the spending package, which refers to changing Senate precedent so legislation could be approved with a 51-vote majority, instead of the usual 60. But McConnell’s office made clear the majority leader would not do that, and several Republican senators said they also opposed it.

So evidently, no continuing resolution will pass both houses by the end of the day, and it looks like we are in for more shutdown theater starting at midnight.

What’s the point? I assume Trump was stung by the criticism he drew when he seemed to be walking away from the wall, and wants a brief shutdown to show his determination to stand up to the Democrats. He may also see that support for the wall is growing, and may continue to grow between now and 2020, given the ongoing fiasco at the southern border.

Unfortunately, given the manner in which the process has played out, and the fact that the president seems to be without any prospect of a successful end game, the likely effect of a short shutdown, at least in the near term, will be to add to the growing impression of chaos in the executive branch.

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