Shutdown Watch: Will Trump Play the Grinch This Christmas?

Shutdown Watch: Will Trump Play the Grinch This Christmas?


Lawmakers agreed on Monday to a two-week extension of government funding, pushing off the deadline for a partial government shutdown and an ongoing fight over money for President Trump’s proposed border wall until December 21.

The stopgap measure, expected to be passed via a unanimous consent agreement later this week, buys both sides more time to negotiate in what Time calls a “trillion-dollar game of chicken.” But it would take only one lawmaker to throw things back into chaos — and even assuming the extension is passed, the parties still don’t have a clear path to a deal that would avoid parts of the government shutting down just before Christmas. That timing, though, provides some added incentive to cement a deal so that everyone can head home for the holidays.

The biggest sticking point: “The vast majority of dealmaking is already done, with six out of the seven outstanding appropriations bills essentially finished,” says Politico. “But spending leaders can’t tie things up until Trump and Democrats can agree on border wall funding.” Trump wants $5 billion in funding for his wall. Democrats have balked at that sum, even if split over two years. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said last week Democrats still support the $1.6 billion in border security funding included in an earlier Senate bill.

Waiting for Trump, Schumer and Pelosi: With both sides dug in for now, and with Washington occupied with former President George H.W. Bush’s funeral on Wednesday, the next steps will depend on talks between Trump and the top two Democrats, Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said as much on Monday night, while still predicting that lawmakers will avoid any shutdown. “It's now up to three people to strike an agreement to keep the government open,” CNN’s Phil Mattingly says. “Whether and how they'll get there remains a very open question.”

Schumer and Pelosi had been scheduled to go to the White House today, but that meeting was postponed because of Bush’s death. It’s expected to take place next Tuesday.

GOP lawmakers don’t want a shutdown: “Republicans acknowledge that the chances of reaching a significant agreement on border security and immigration are dropping with each passing day,” write The Hill’s Alexander Bolton and Niv Ellis. “At this point, they are scrambling to find a way for Trump to declare victory on border security and avoid a shutdown they fear would inflict political damage on their party heading into the 2020 election cycle.”

The bottom line: All signs point to a shutdown being highly unlikely … unless for some reason Trump decides to play the Grinch and figures he can score political points against Democrats both now and later for failing to fund his wall.

Slate’s Jim Newell outlines a more likely endgame: “Trump accepts the $1.6 billion with an immaterial tweak or two ahead of the Dec. 21 deadline, says that’s what he wanted in the first place and that he’ll come back for more in the new year, perhaps through an immigration deal with Democrats (that never happens). Everyone goes off and enjoys the holidays, and by the time the new Congress convenes in January, nobody remembers any of this. And Trump, without enough money for his precious wall, still gets to run on building it.”