President Trump has been known to raise the stakes in political battles, especially when he’s holding a weak hand. Now, political insiders in both parties worry that he might do it again, Jonathan Allen of NBC News reports, by opting for a government shutdown next month in an effort to turn public opinion against Democrats pursuing his impeachment.
Federal funding runs out on November 21, and with annual spending bills for the fiscal year that started October 1 still mired in contentious congressional negotiations, a second stopgap spending bill will likely be needed to prevent a shutdown after the deadline. The fear is that Trump might not sign off on another short-term extension, even though a senior administration official told NBC News that “the president is unlikely to oppose a clean temporary funding bill.”
After all, as The Washington Post’s Paul Kane noted recently, “the president has increasingly demonstrated the past few weeks that he regularly sees issues as one large negotiation, linking together seemingly disconnected threads into one massive ball of legislative wax. … All that leaves congressional leaders fearful that any of these must-pass bills could turn into a hostage situation if Trump sees it as possible leverage against impeachment.”
A shutdown wouldn’t necessarily put a halt to impeachment proceedings, as Congress would keep working and Democrats could choose to push ahead, even though it might be politically perilous. In theory, though, a shutdown fight might help Trump hammer Democrats on issues popular with his base and could push impeachment out of headlines, at least briefly.
"The administration could use a spending showdown to put the focus back on the issues and the fact that Democrats don't want to pay for national security, border security or restrain wasteful spending," one unnamed former senior administration told NBC, adding that the longer “this impeachment circus” drags on, the less reason Trump has to cooperate on getting spending bills passed.
Democrats say prompting a shutdown would again backfire on Trump as it would be seen as another example of the president putting his personal political interests above the good of the country.
"If some Republicans want to shut down the government because the House is upholding our oath of office and holding President Trump accountable, they'll have to defend that to the American people," Rep. Nita Lowey, the Democratic chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement to NBC.