The White House and congressional Democrats appear to be on a collision course ahead of the Dec. 21 deadline to keep the federal government running. No one can be sure of the outcome, but there are three key things that could point to what it may be.
First, a few words on the background: Donald Trump is insisting that any new spending bill to fund the government include billions for a wall on the US border with Mexico. Presidential advisor Stephen Miller said on CBS’s Face the Nation yesterday (Dec. 16) that the president would “absolutely” push for a government shutdown to do “whatever is necessary to build the border wall.”
Meanwhile, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer promised that “all [Trump] is going to get with his temper tantrum is a shutdown. He will not get a wall,” on NBC’s Meet the Press. Until the new Congress is sworn in on Jan. 3, Republicans continue to control both the Senate and the House, but with just 51 seats in the Senate there’s no way they’ll get to the 60-vote threshold needed to pass a spending bill.
Online betting companies are taking bets on the shutdown happening, with odds increasing for “yes” at PredictIt. Trump has threatened to shut the government before over funding for the wall, only to sign a spending bill at the last minute.
Here’s what to watch for this week
1. Whether Republicans can convince the White House to OK a two-week “stop-gap”
This would fund the government through January. Republicans are talking about the plan as a way to punt the fight over the border wall into next year, Politico reports. That would mean voting on funding after the new Congress is seated, making it even less likely Trump would get substantial funding to build a wall. The president is reportedly against the stop-gap idea.
2. Signs Trump is willing to put his vacation on hold
Trump is scheduled to depart Washington DC on Friday, Dec. 21, the day of the deadline, for 16 days of Christmas and New Year’s vacation at his private Florida club. If the White House actually intends to shut down the government, his schedule is likely to change to avoid the unseemly spectacle of the president jetting off while some federal employees are working without pay. If the timing of his departure to Mar-a-Lago changes, the Federal Aviation Administration is likely to issue a new “VIP temporary flight restriction” for the West Palm Beach region, indicating the new time.
3.Whether House Republicans show up to vote on anything this week
“A handful to more than two dozen Republicans have failed to cast votes on individual bills,” in the House, the New York Times reports, as they wind down their term in office, and take time off for personal things, like their own wedding. Republicans have 236 of the 435 seats in the House, but there’s no guarantee they can get to the two-thirds threshold they need to pass a spending bill to keep the government open. After a six-day weekend (yes, six days) the House is scheduled to reconvene the evening Dec. 19. Attendance then could indicate how many actually plan to show up to vote on any funding measures before the 21st.