In a new interview with the Daily Caller, a conservative website, President Trump downplayed the possibility of a government shutdown ahead of the midterm elections in November. “I don’t see even myself or anybody else closing down the country right now,” Trump said. He added, more broadly, “I don’t like the idea of shutdowns.”
Then on Wednesday the president proceeded to threaten another shutdown. "If it happens it happens. If it's about border security, I'm willing to do anything," Trump told reporters at the White House, according to The Hill.
There have been two government shutdowns since Trump took office and the president has repeatedly raised the threat of another one during his battles over funding for the border wall and other immigration issues. Just a few weeks ago, Trump tweeted, “I would be willing to ‘shut down’ government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall!” And Bloomberg reports that, despite statements indicating he had given up on the idea, Trump is still asking aides about the possible benefits of a shutdown.
The latest plan: Trump was scheduled to meet with GOP lawmakers Wednesday afternoon to discuss their strategy for government funding for the 2019 fiscal year, which begins on October 1. The plan reportedly is to pass some spending bills to keep the government open, while leaving the more contentious issue of money for the border wall to a Homeland Security bill that can be taken up after the midterms.
"He still occasionally tweets about a government shutdown over the wall funding and that sort of thing,” Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said of Trump, “but I think in the end he’s — I believe at least, and his team — of a view that we’re all better off if we can keep the government funded."
The odds of a shutdown: Cowen Research Group’s Chris Krueger said in a note to clients that a shutdown before the midterms is highly unlikely, giving it a one-in-10 chance. The most likely outcome in Kreuger’s view is that Congress will pass a series of “minibus” bills to fund most of the government for 2019, while covering the contentious agencies with a short-term continuing resolution, pushing any funding struggles to after the midterms.
Alternatively, if lawmakers can’t agree on different versions of the appropriations bills before the October 1 deadline, they could pass a continuing resolution for all government funding. In either case, they’d avoid a government shutdown in early October while setting up a potential battle over funding in November or December, when the continuing resolution would likely expire.
“You can never take a shutdown off the table,” Kreuger wrote, “though we suspect it will be AFTER the midterms during the Lame Duck.”
But you never know: The wild card, as always, is the president himself. Trump may decide that Republican lawmakers are wrong about the negative repercussions of closing the government, Krueger said, and gamble that a shutdown is a good way to fire up his base ahead of the midterms. What better way to get out the pro-Trump vote than to hold firm on demands for funding a border wall with Mexico and getting tough on government employees, portraying them as denizens of the Washington swamp brought into line by a strong leader?
Asked about the possibility of a shutdown, House Budget Chairman Steve Womack (R-AR) told Politico, “I am always worried, and I’m never worried. Nothing surprises me.”
This article was updated at 6:10 p.m. on Wednesday, September 5.