Wouldn’t this just be a perfect end to a depressing week? And by “perfect,” I mean equally depressing, but just in an entirely different way. After Congress finally passed a stinker of an omnibus bill, complete with public buy-in from the White House, Donald Trump threatened to veto it this morning over its lack of border-wall funding and a fix to the DACA program.
Government shutdown, here we come!
I am considering a VETO of the Omnibus Spending Bill based on the fact that the 800,000 plus DACA recipients have been totally abandoned by the Democrats (not even mentioned in Bill) and the BORDER WALL, which is desperately needed for our National Defense, is not fully funded.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 23, 2018
Wasn’t the fix in? Trump’s OMB director Mick Mulvaney certainly thought so. “Let’s cut right to the chase,” Mulvaney told the press yesterday. “Is the president going to sign the bill? The answer is yes. Why? Because it funds his priorities.”
So what changed? The bill didn’t change; it’s the same bill as it was before the House vote took place yesterday. When Mulvaney spoke, the bill didn’t have a DACA fix or any significant border-wall money. That fight got punted, and at least up until yesterday, leadership in both parties seemed fine with it. Nancy Pelosi offered up a useless rules stunt to demonstrate her solidarity with DACA activists, but she endorsed the final spending package without any DACA fix in it, too.
Paul Ryan was under the impression that Trump would sign the bill:
Speaker Ryan yesterday: "The President supports this bill. There’s no two ways about it."
President Trump tweeted this morning he's "considering" a veto of the spending bill, citing lack of DACA deal and border wall funding. pic.twitter.com/QtdweVmbsp
— NBC News (@NBCNews) March 23, 2018
This sudden shift takes place after an all-nighter in the Senate to stave off a government shutdown:
Congress cleared a sweeping $1.3 trillion spending bill early Friday and sent it to President Trump for his signature, staving off a government shutdown with less than 24 hours to spare.
Action by the Senate shortly before 1 a.m. capped a day of suspense, including the late-night revelation that the legislation had been stalled for hours partly because Sen. James E. Risch (R-Idaho) objected to the renaming of a federal wilderness area after a deceased political rival.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) also held out against the bill for much of the day Thursday, voicing objections to what he viewed as unnecessary deficit spending while keeping colleagues in the dark about whether he would delay action on the legislation and force a brief government shutdown, as he did last month over an earlier spending deal.
Finally, after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) intervened personally with Risch and Paul and the Senate passed a measure striking the provision Risch disliked, both men relented. The Senate passed the 2,232-page spending bill 65-32, about 12 hours after the House had also approved the legislation on a similarly wide bipartisan vote of 256-to-167.
Wide, but not wide enough to override a veto. The bill would have to get two more votes in the Senate and 36 more in the House to get an override on a veto, and it’s hardly clear where those votes would originate. Chuck Schumer might get a couple of more Democrats on board just in defiance of Trump, but will Nancy Pelosi talk more Democrats into voting aye when Trump’s declared reason for the veto is a lack of resolution on DACA?
The strategy behind a veto would be difficult to understand. Democrats took the blame for the last government shutdown, thanks to a concerted political campaign by Trump’s White House and the GOP to cast it as putting illegal immigrants ahead of national defense. Trump would be doing exactly the same thing in triggering a shutdown, or at least a budget crisis. Maybe that’s why he mentioned national security in the tweet in reference to the border wall, but that won’t negate the fact that the omnibus has a big boost in military spending that will get delayed or suspended in a shutdown.
Maybe Trump’s bluffing, but a bluff strategy doesn’t make a lot of sense either. If he doesn’t veto the bill now, he’ll look foolish. Even if he does veto the bill, he’s not going to get a DACA-border wall deal in 24 hours; everyone, including the White House, agreed to punt that fight out of the budget battle weeks ago, and talks haven’t progressed at all since. Besides, the GOP hardly won in the omnibus horse trading — does Trump really want to hand Pelosi that much leverage again?
Best guess: Mulvaney, Ryan, and McConnell will convince Trump to sign the omnibus, with a lot of public grumbling. But at this point, nothing seems predictable.