Welcome back to Shutdown Theater, where every day has a cliffhanger even though the audience knows that the status quo won’t change in the end. At the close of yesterday’s episode, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell let it be known that he would bring a short-term spending bill to the floor in order to push off the fight over the border wall to after the holidays. But a funny thing happened to the “minibus,” as such bills are called … it went missing, Politico reports:
Yesterday afternoon, we started hearing that SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL was going to file a so-called minibus spending bill — seven bills wrapped into one — with an increase in border spending. He didn’t, and Monday went by without appreciable progress in funding the government.
TIME IS DWINDLING, and Capitol Hill is waiting for PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP to say what he would like to sign. At this point, it would be difficult to see Congress clear a seven-bill minibus in four days. So either the government shuts down Friday, or somehow both sides agree to a short-term spending bill.
THE PRESIDENT ISN’T GOING TO GET his $5 billion. No way, no how. So the question is what will he accept, and how much time will he give Congress to do it. The House isn’t in until tomorrow night. At the moment, TRUMP isn’t negotiating, nor is he stating how he’d like to see this standoff resolved.
Why push off the fight now? The GOP still has a House majority — theoretically, anyway. Doesn’t pushing this off cut out that leverage in getting a deal? Not really, because Senate Democrats can gum up the works with the filibuster, which applies to appropriations bills even though it doesn’t apply to budget resolutions.
Senate Republicans want the mess pushed off for that reason, and because they’ll have two more seats after January 3rd, when the next session starts. That dumps the shutdown more firmly in Nancy Pelosi’s lap to start off the next session, slowing down her planned rapid start on progressive agenda items that don’t have a prayer of getting through the Senate. At least that’s the theory floated by Politico’s sources on Capitol Hill, and it’s at least as good as anyone else’s at the moment.
So far Trump isn’t negotiating with Democrats, but the Washington Post reports that Republicans are trying to negotiate with him. At this point, Trump wants to have this fight once and for all, and the Border Patrol union is supporting him:
At the White House, Trump has remained disinclined to support even stopgap measures that would keep federal government operations running for a week or two, told by his closest advisers that he would have even less leverage when Democrats take control of the House next month. Trump is also bolstered by support of rank-and-file Border Patrol agents, whose union leader told the president in a recent Oval Office conversation that they would back a wall-induced shutdown if the dispute came to that point.
All that has left Republican lawmakers eager to avoid a shutdown unsure whether Trump would ultimately come around to at least one option that would end the impasse before Friday. Without a resolution that the president could sign before midnight Friday, roughly 800,000 federal workers will be furloughed or forced to work without pay in a partial shutdown that Trump has already — and proudly — claimed as his own.
“How are we going to get out of it? Well, I think that should factor into people’s calculations,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who has been publicly critical of Trump’s decision to embrace shutdown tactics. “Because it’s not going to get any better in January.”
Following a meeting of Senate Republican leaders Monday evening, Cornyn said that “if there is” a plan to avoid a shutdown, “I’m not aware of it.”
Trump is fortunate in that this partial shutdown will likely not create an immediate public backlash. Trump can modulate that to his own effect, of course; Barack Obama did a masterful job of trolling Republicans in the short-lived October 2013 shutdown (that nearly distracted from the catastrophic rollout of ObamaCare) by shutting down access to public spaces in the fall. Now it’s the dead of winter and the tourist industry is at a seasonal lull. The travel industry is at its peak, but TSA will remain on the job even as their pay gets delayed:
But within those agencies, some 420,000 employees are “excepted,” in government parlance, from furloughs; that is, they are considered essential and will be on the job, but they won’t be getting paychecks. …
TSA officers will still be screening airline passengers in one of the busiest travel periods of the year but will very likely have to wait for paychecks — during the holiday season.
If Trump wants a fight, this is the time to have it … and have it he will, it seems.
Join us for tomorrow’s exciting adventure in Shutdown Theater — “Make a Run for the Border,” or “If a Bill Fell in Congress and No One Was Around, Would It Rate a Tweet?”