Government Shutdown Looms for Trump 02/21 06:11
Add a potential government shutdown to embattled President Donald Trump's
growing roster of headaches.
ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Add a potential government shutdown to embattled
President Donald Trump's growing roster of headaches.
Beneath the capital's radar looms a vexing problem --- a catchall spending
package that's likely to top $1 trillion and could get embroiled in the
politics of building Trump's wall at the U.S.-Mexico border and a
budget-busting Pentagon request.
While a shutdown deadline has a few weeks to go, the huge measure looms as
an unpleasant reality check for Trump and Republicans controlling Congress.
Despite the big power shift in Washington, the path to success --- and
averting a shuttering of the government --- goes directly through Senate
Democrats, whose votes are required to pass the measure. And any measure that
satisfies Democrats and their new leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, is
sure to alienate tea party Republicans. Trump's determination to build his wall
on the U.S.-Mexico border faces a fight with Democrats, too.
For now, the new Democratic leader is cautious.
"We'll have to wait and see what happens," Schumer said. "I hope they won't
jam up the supplemental (spending bill) with poison pills."
At issue is the annual must-do legislation funding government agencies and
departments. The path for the huge spending measure --- by Republicans' own
choice a piece of leftover business from last year --- would be difficult and
complicated in a smoothly running Washington. But partisanship has engulfed the
city, and the upcoming measure is made even more challenging once upcoming
Trump requests for $18 billion or more for the Pentagon and money for his
contentious border wall are added to the mix.
For years, Republicans needed President Barack Obama's signoff and relied on
Democratic votes to pass the measures and balance out opposition from tea
Trump's election has shifted the balance of power in Washington, but the
GOP's grip on the Senate --- where 60 votes are needed for most legislation ---
is actually weaker. Some House conservatives are demanding a round of budget
cuts to "offset" new spending on the Pentagon and Trump's wall.
"If all of a sudden we're not worried about pay-fors for our spending, then
we have been hypocrites," said tea party Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho. "I'm not
going to vote for anything that just increases spending without looking for a
way to pay for that in the future."
That's far easier said than done, especially with the budget year nearly
half over. Democrats might accept the Pentagon funding --- aimed at reversing
what Pentagon hawks see as a slide in military readiness and procurement ---
even though it would unravel a hard-won 2015 budget pact. But they won't stand
for cuts to domestic programs to pay for it, and neither will more pragmatic
"I don't think we'd be able to jam anything through that didn't have some
significant buy-in by Democrats," Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said.
Lawmakers face an April 28 deadline, which seems like plenty of time. The
administration, however, is off to a slow start, just last Wednesday winning
Senate confirmation of its budget director, Mick Mulvaney, who has his hands
full with Trump's broader budget submission for the upcoming year as well as
plans for the supplemental Pentagon spending or the border wall
It's all complicated by the tumult surrounding Trump's presidency, including
his low approval ratings and vehement opposition from rank-and-file Democrats
still stinging from Trump's upset victory and his provocative travel ban.
GOP leaders like House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin are eager to avert any
shutdown. The most recent one, caused by House Republicans, came as tea party
lawmakers insisted on a failed strategy of using shutdown threats as leverage
to try to block implementation of Obama's health care law.
An end-of-April shutdown still seems unlikely. Neither Republicans nor
Democrats want that. But a stumble is possible if Senate Democrats filibuster
the measure over budget additions like the border wall with Mexico.
And in the House, dysfunction is always possible, especially if
conservatives shun the measure as they have with previous bipartisan versions
of spending bills. That led top leaders like then-Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio,
to turn to House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, hat in hand, to get enough
votes. Now, with Trump in the White House, House Democrats can't be counted
upon to help.
"If they need Democratic votes, because some of their people will vote for
nothing, as you well know, then we'll have to talk," Pelosi said. "But I fear
that if they don't need Democratic votes, the product would be something very
horrible for the American people."
And there's still the Senate, where Republicans hold a 52-48 edge, short of
"So it doesn't mean just because (Republicans) have a majority in the House,
a majority in the Senate and now the White House that we can do anything we
want," Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, said.