Are We Headed For Another Shutdown Over Trump’s Border Wall?

Once again, a fight is set to brew over funding for the President's border wall. Will he force another shutdown in an election year?

The House of Representatives passed a bill to kick the can down the road with regard to the Fiscal Year 2020 budget, but just as we saw happen last year, it left open the one issue that, if the President wants another fight, could lead to another government shutdown:

The House on Thursday easily passed a stopgap spending measure to avert a shutdown at month’s end. But the hard part is just beginning.

Democratic and Republican leaders will spend the next two months attempting to forge a lasting deal to fund the government involving all of the same political landmines that thrust Washington into a 35-day shutdown — and more.

The House on Thursday easily passed a stopgap spending measure to avert a shutdown at month’s end. But the hard part is just beginning.

Democratic and Republican leaders will spend the next two months attempting to forge a lasting deal to fund the government involving all of the same political landmines that thrust Washington into a 35-day shutdown — and more.

Even this short-term funding bill resulted in some behind the scenes drama: Democratic and Republican spending leaders struggled to reach a deal for days as they sparred over Trump’s controversial aid program for farmers hit by his trade wars, Puerto Rico’s Medicaid funding, and, of course, the wall.

The most difficult piece of the upcoming funding talks center on a small slice of the $1.4 trillion budget: the Department of Homeland Security. That bill alone, and the related fight over the wall, was the trigger of the longest-ever government shutdown that stretched from last December to January.

So far this year, neither party has formally released its opening bid on the DHS funding bill. House Democratic leaders have said they plan to offer zero dollars for Trump’s wall, while pursuing more restrictions for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, including fewer detention beds.

Senate Democrats, meanwhile, have skewered Republicans for proposing that $5 billion from domestic programs be spent on the wall, with plans to divert another $7 billion in military construction funds to border projects. Those fiscal 2020 funding levels could be in flux, however, as both parties in the upper chamber continue negotiating behind the scenes.

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Funding disputes over the wall are part of why the Senate has yet to pass a single spending bill on the floor — a delayed start that has complicated any attempt by the two chambers to begin talks on a final deal.

Disagreements over abortion-related provisions have also ensnared some of the Senate’s spending bills.

House Democrats, meanwhile, have passed funding bills for nearly every other department.

But Democratic lawmakers say they are also unwilling to delay consideration of a DHS funding bill for much longer — fearful of simply maintaining current funding and other policy provisions that Democrats are eager to change.

“One of the things I’m going to be pushing is that DHS doesn’t become the orphan child again. But that there’s going to be a total package,” said California Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, who leads Democratic negotiations for the House DHS funding bill.

Progressive lawmakers, in particular, are eager to use the upcoming funding talks to fight Trump’s border policies, which include not just the wall, but a slew of new hard-line moves taken over the summer.

As of this point, there hasn’t been any indication from the White House regarding what position they are going to take on a short-term funding bill that doesn’t include border wall funding, or what position they’d take if the final version of the funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security if it doesn’t include funding for the wall. If last year is any indication, though, we could be headed for the same kind of showdown that led to the record-breaking 35-day shutdown that lasted from December 22, 2018, to January 25, 2019.

That shutdown occurred, of course, largely because of the President’s insistence that he would not sign a budget that did not include funding for the border wall. In the end, of course, Trump was forced to accept a budget with no funding for the border wall, but he has attempted to make an end-run around that by declaring a purported “national emergency” and diverting money from the Department of Defense to construction of his wall, a move that is being challenged in the courts as we speak.

It’s possible that we’ll avoid another shutdown showdown, of course. Congress, whether we’re talking about the Democrats or the Republicans, clearly doesn’t want such an event so close to a crucial national election. Of course, it was clear that the Republicans didn’t want the shutdown in 2014 or the one that occurred less than a year ago, but we got them anyway.

The crucial, perhaps the only relevant player here is the President. Perhaps this time he’ll listen to political advisers and avoid a shutdown. That would allow him to campaign on the charge that the Democrats were denying the American people the wall he promised in 2016. At the same time, though, it’s hard to believe that Trump is simply going to let the border wall issue slip by this time. If he was willing to shut the government down over it last time, he may be willing to do so again this time. This is especially true given the fact that doing so would appeal to the base of the Republican Party and distract from the ongoing Democratic primary fight. So, don’t be surprised if we end up facing another shutdown showdown around Christmas and heading into the new year.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Campaign 2020, 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. Kathy says:

    “Indications from the White House” since January 2017 are like patterns in a cloud of smoke: they won’t be the same a second from now.

  2. Kit says:

    I’d have the D’s allow the government to shut down, and promise that it will not reopen until the new budget includes interest on unpaid salaries, along with all late fees and other (reasonable) expenses incurred. Hang the sorry mess around his neck.

  3. Gustopher says:

    I’d have the Democrats pass one week continuing resolutions for the remainder of the Trump presidency, with an explicit threat to stop if Trump uses his national emergency powers to fund the wall.

    Also, someone in the Senate should refuse unanimous consent, just to slow down judicial confirmations by sucking up Senate floor time.

  4. David S. says:

    @Kathy: Words I never thought I’d ever hear myself say:

    You’re being terribly unfair to clouds of smoke.

  5. Kathy says:

    @David S.:

    About the only common thing that’s as bad as what passes for a Trump administration, is what passes for a Trump administration.

  6. An Interested Party says:

    @Kit & Gustopher: Sadly, no one in the House Democratic leadership seems to think like that…if only they did…

  7. Teve says:

    According to the political journalists on Twitter, the mood of the democratic caucus in the House is shifting.

  8. An Interested Party says:

    …the mood of the democratic caucus in the House is shifting.

    You would hope so, right? Doing nothing simply rewards bad behavior and emboldens more bad behavior