Another Shutdown In Three Weeks?

Is the settlement of the government shutdown just delaying the inevitable?

While everyone is celebrating the fact that the five-week-long government shutdown is over, Aaron Blake at The Washington Post takes a look at whether or not we might see another one:

The short answer is that nobody knows. Trump is still demanding a border wall, and given his leadership style, there are no guarantees until a deal is actually cut. He seemed to set the stage Friday for simply declaring a national emergency if congressional Democrats don’t agree to fund the wall, but who knows. We didn’t even think the current shutdown would happen until Trump changed his mind at the last minute, after Senate Republicans had already passed a clean government-funding bill.

But those Republicans also hold the key to Trump being able to force the issue here, and whether they would go along with another shutdown is anything but assured.

It didn’t seem they particularly wanted this shutdown, after all. But they were stuck between what they surely had to know was an unwinnable fight and a president who insisted upon throwing down. Layer over that the fact that running afoul of Trump comes at great cost within the party, and their hands were tied. Much as GOP leaders essentially had to go along with the tea party’s failed push to defund Obamacare during the 2013 government shutdown, these Republicans were hostages to their base — and to the president who promised them a wall.

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Polls showing Republicans taking much more of the blame, increasingly tough headlines about shutdown impacts and a second straight missed paycheck for federal workers seemed to push things to a breaking point. Republicans were clearly losing the will to stand by Trump. As The Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan and Paul Kane reported, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) expressed exasperation with the mere idea of using a shutdown as leverage:

Also during the lunch, McConnell made clear to Pence and others in the room that the shutdown was not his idea and was not working. According to Republicans familiar with his comments, he quoted a favorite saying that he often uses to express his displeasure with government shutdowns: “There is no education in the second kick of a mule.”

McConnell started using that saying after the 2013 shutdown, which lasted 16 days and ended after the public largely blamed Republicans.

That doesn’t sound like someone who is ready to shut it down again. Nor does it sound as though others were prepared to use such brinkmanship in three weeks. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) reportedly lashed out at McConnell for taking the party down this path. And Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) concluded his statement Friday by saying there should be no more shutdowns.

In addition to the Senate Republicans, one would think that the White House has learned its lesson through this shutdown as well. As I noted earlier, the President began this shutdown because he rejected a deal that he had previously accepted that would have kept the government open from late December through February 8th, a time period that could have been used to negotiate some kind of deal on border security and immigration. In the meantime, he would have avoided the obvious political disaster that this shutdown has been for him. Given that, repeating the exercise would seem to be incredibly politically foolhardy even for Trump, who seems to specialize in the politically foolhardy. Additionally, his implicit threat to attempt to use his power to declare a national emergency to get the wall built doesn’t seem to be particularly concerning. This is a measure he threatened to undertake several times during shutdown only to back away, suggesting that even his own lawyers are telling him that he doesn’t have the power to do this. Even if he did, it’s likely that he’d be blocked by the Federal Courts almost as soon as the ink was dry on his Executive Order. Finally, the extent to which Trump has lost this battle make trying it all over again seem so foolish that even he wouldn’t be tempted to try it again.

Among  Republicans more generally there doesn’t seem to be much enthusiasm to relive the political disaster that has unfolded over the past thirty-five days. While most of the polling showed that it was the President who was taking the blame rather than Republicans more generally, it was likely only a matter of time before public ire started to focus on Republican legislators in the House and Senate, not to mention the fact that Senators and Members of Congress were hearing loud and clear from Federal workers back home about the impact of the shutdown on them and on communities across the nation. Allowing it to happen again would seem to clearly be political suicide on their part. Given that, it seems unlikely that Republicans on Capitol Hill would be standing as firmly behind the President as they did for most of the shutdown. Indeed, had the shutdown gone on much further, it’s likely that we would have seen further defections from the Republican side of the bench.

Taking all of this into account, my guess is that we’re unlikely to see a repeat of what has unfolded over the past five weeks. Of course, this is Donald Trump’s Washington so there’s no telling what might happen.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Congress, Deficit and Debt, Donald Trump, Politicians, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. James Pearce says:

    Taking all of this into account, my guess is that we’re unlikely to see a repeat of what has unfolded over the past five weeks. Of course, this is Donald Trump’s Washington so there’s no telling what might happen.

    Shenanigans are still likely.

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  2. CSK says:

    Trump’s most recent Tweet (less than an hour ago):

    BUILD A WALL & CRIME WILL FALL

  3. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Nope. Not gonna happen.

    Trump will once again re-define “wall”. DEMs will set aside money for increased border security at crossings, and money for development of a 21st century high-tech border surveillance that covers a larger territory without eminent domain issues.

    Budget will pass. Each side will claim victory, focusing on the benefits for the American Public.

    Except for Trump. As of yesterday, he is a lame duck. GOP will focus on small wins so they can retain their local seats in safe states. Even then, GOP will lose seats.

    Trump is over.

  4. Teve says:

    @CSK: well, at least he’s not making the mistake of overestimating his supporters’ intelligence.

  5. CSK says:

    @Teve:

    I think some of them have waked up to the fact that they’ve been royally conned, but they can’t bring themselves to admit it.

  6. James Pearce says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    As of yesterday, he is a lame duck.

    Obama, walking off the stage of the White House Correspondent’s Dinner in 2011, thought to himself, “Won’t have to worry about that dude anymore.”

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  7. DrDaveT says:

    @James Pearce: See, it is possible for me to upvote something you posted…

    The time to be complacent about what further damage Trump can do is when he is dead, his family in prison, and his cartouches effaced.

  8. DrDaveT says:

    I think the OP and the quoted journalists are overlooking a key factor — namely, that the federal employees who work at airports eventually realized that, even though they are not legally allowed to strike, they can still bring air travel to its knees any time they collectively decide to do so. Once it became clear that Trump felt no urgency whatever to reopen the government, they began to find enough solidarity to act.

    I would not be too surprised if any future continuation of the shutdown sees O’Hare or JFK or Hartsfield at half capacity within less than a week — at which point Republicans will do whatever it takes to reopen, including locking Trump in his gold-plated bathroom for a week.

  9. MikeSJ says:

    I think if the shut down did happen again the air traffic controllers and TSA agents need to pick a couple of red states and do a mass sick day/week call in.

    Having no flights in or out of Utah and Kentucky should motivate the republicans to do the right thing (if their voters & money people scream loud enough).

    They aren’t capable of acting with decency but they at least understand self interest.

  10. Tony W says:

    As @DrDaveT: above suggests – a general strike would be very effective in getting the parties to settle their differences.

    Federal employees should use the next three weeks to get that organized so that they can walk out together on Day 1.

    Reagan may have fired all the air-traffic controllers, but you simply can’t fire the entire Federal Government.

  11. DrDaveT says:

    @Tony W:

    Federal employees should use the next three weeks to get that organized

    I would love to hear the conversations tomorrow in the head offices of the various federal employee not-quite-unions (e.g. the National Treasury Employees Union, National Weather Service Employees Organization, etc.)

  12. mattbernius says:

    One thing to watch for is whether or not either pay advances legislation to eliminate shutdowns. There are rumors than the Democrats are considering it.

    If that happens, and it passes, then that would be a huge win for the country.

  13. al Ameda says:

    @mattbernius:

    One thing to watch for is whether or not either pay advances legislation to eliminate shutdowns. There are rumors than the Democrats are considering it.
    If that happens, and it passes, then that would be a huge win for the country.

    I’d love to see Republicans go on the record on THAT bill. I wonder if McConnell would refuse to have the Republicans vote on it