While Congress contemplates last-minute legislating, Trump demands shutdown
With the funeral of George H.W. Bush, and any semblance of acting with decorum and dignity behind them, the lame-duck Republican leadership have to figure out how to keep Individual 1 from shutting down the government. So far, they seem to have landed on not doing anything and leaving it to Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, as if Trump’s shutdown will somehow end up being blamed on them.
Since Trump has been trying to get his border wall shutdown since basically his first day in office, how this is going to end up being Chuck and Nancy’s fault is unclear. But House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have washed their hands of the negotiations, putting all the onus on them. They are expected to meet with Trump on Tuesday and they are expected to hold the line. “If President Trump wants to throw a temper tantrum and shut down the government over Christmas over the wall, that’s his decision,” Schumer said last week. “But there are two sensible options on the table,” either moving ahead with the agreement they’ve already reached in Congress on border security spending, or doing a continuing resolution to keep Homeland Security spending level for the next year. The most sensible option is $0 new spending at the border—there’s already $1.3 billion there unspent.
With that playing out in the background, members are trying to figure out how much they can pile into the must-pass spending bill, attempting to do in two weeks what Republican leadership has failed to do in two years. Among the possibilities are adopting new sexual harassment prevention rules for Congress itself, a criminal justice reform bill that could easily pass but that McConnell has for some reason refused to bring to the floor, protections for Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation, flood insurance, and, funding for disaster response in California and Florida. They also have to complete the farm bill and there’s growing pressure to have a vote on rebuking Saudi Arabia for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by cutting off funding for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. The House has their last-ditch, supposedly middle-class tax cut bill, likely to be a casualty of their massive mid-term loss to Democrats, but they’re still talking about it, so who knows.
Five of the 12 spending measures for 2019 have already been completed, so any shutdown would be partial, and would also most hurt the federal workers Trump is supposedly championing—Border Control. They’d be the ones forced to work without pay. There’s no risk in this for Democrats to hold the line against any new border spending. There’s no way that this would not be Trump’s shutdown. His (hopefully last) Christmas present to the nation.