Why a Government Shutdown Is More Likely in December Than October

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Aug 25 2017

President Trump may be willing to shut down the government to get Congress to pay for his border wall with Mexico, but that fiscal fight may not happen until December.

When Congress returns after Labor Day, it will have much to do — lift the debt ceiling, pass a spending bill to keep the lights on at federal agencies, fund children’s health insurance, reauthorize a federal flood insurance program — and little time to do it. Pushing off the battle over border wall funding could make it easier to focus on increasing the government’s borrowing authority and averting a debt default.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said this week that a short-term spending bill, called a continuing resolution, would likely be necessary to fund the government after September 30 and allow Congress time it needs to work through the appropriations process.

“Therefore,” analysts Brian Gardner and Michael Michaud of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods wrote in a note to clients Friday, “we think the likely strategy will be to increase the debt ceiling and then pass a temporary spending bill that will buy Congress more time to finish spending bills for the remainder of the fiscal year (through September 30, 2018).”

Related: Here’s What Happens If Congress Fails to Raise the Debt Ceiling

One wildcard in that scenario: President Trump could nix any short-term bill if he insists on getting funding for the wall right away or decides to force Congress to override his veto.

Still, the analysts put the odds of a government shutdown at the beginning of October at less than 50 percent — but December is another story. “We think a short-term spending bill (aka continuing resolution or CR) to keep the government open will pass but any CR will kick the can down the road until near the end of the calendar year and that is when, in our view, the prospects for a government shutdown become more likely.”

Rep. Jim Jordan, a leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, told Bloomberg Friday that he’d be fine putting off the budget fight until later in the year — but sounded eager for a shutdown showdown. “I’m willing to do it whenever it makes sense,” he said.

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