The dizzying whirl of events in Washington on Wednesday – including a House vote condemning President Trump’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria and an explosive meeting at the White House that ended with the abrupt exit of Speaker Nancy Pelosi – make it harder to imagine that a deal can be reached to keep the government open when short-term funding expires at the end of next month.
Chris Kreuger of Cowen Research Group says the growing chaos in the nation’s capital means another shutdown could be in the cards: “Government shutdown on November 21 goes from plausible to probable,” he wrote in a note to clients Thursday.
So many distractions: Even before the blowup over Syria, Congress and the White House have been distracted by the ongoing impeachment inquiry into Trump’s handling of military aid to Ukraine. Its attention elsewhere, the Senate has done little to advance the 12 appropriations bills that need to be passed over the next five weeks, Roll Call’s David Lerman reported Wednesday, with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer blaming each other for the lack of progress and the deepening partisan rift.
Additionally, funding for Trump’s border wall – the issue that sparked a 35-day partial government shutdown earlier this year – remains unresolved. The House version of the Homeland Security bill provides no funds for a wall, while the Senate version provides $5 billion. And Senate Republicans plan to “backfill” the $3.6 billion in military construction funds the Trump administration is redirecting to the border, but Senate Democrats say they will oppose doing so.
Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, made it clear that he plans to stick to his gun on the matter. “Donald Trump gave his solemn word, over and over, that Mexico was going to pay for it,” Leahy said about the wall Wednesday. “As soon as the check arrives, let’s build.”
The Washington Post’s Erica Werner reported Thursday that the White House is also planning to dig in on the issue. “Trump is not interested in signing other domestic spending bills until there is agreement on the border wall,” Werner wrote, citing a senior administration official. The disagreement could produce another shutdown, Werner said, “bigger in scope than what happened less than one year ago.”
The bottom line: The levels of conflict and distrust are rising, and that bodes ill for bipartisan cooperation. “At their core, deals require trust,” Kreuger said. “That seems to be an increasingly rare commodity in a more dysfunctional Washington.”