All Donald Trump wants for Christmas is money for his border wall. He won’t get it. Earlier this week, it seemed like the government would avoid a shutdown with a spending bill that funded government agencies through Feb. 8 and included nearly $8 billion in aid money for disaster relief. It was a solid bipartisan bill and legislators seemed content when they left their DC offices for the holidays, certain that Trump, per his word, would agree to the budget. He gave up on his previous statements that he’d be “proud” to cause a government shutdown and seemed to swallow his pride. He almost signed the bill, sans border wall funding. Trump flipped when his constituents lit him up, saying if he caved on border security that his prospects for a 2020 reelection would crumble. He rejected the bill.
Held to the fire, Trump relinquished, forcing senators who had just settled in at their home states to trudge back onto their planes and begin rehashing a spending bill. Now, congress and the president have until midnight on Friday to come to an agreement or else we’ll face a partial government shutdown. So what are the odds that America wakes up to a quarter of its agencies without funding?
Both parties want to use the threat of a government shutdown as PR, as we saw last Tuesday when Trump, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer duked it out over building a wall or funding the government. Trump wants desperately to show his base that he’ll do anything to build the wall, even if that means a government shutdown, but Pelosi and Schumer, while discrediting the wall as ineffective and expensive, say that a shutdown would be ill-advised. Democrats are trying to show the public thir priorities: keep the government open, don’t waste taxpayer dollars on the wall. Trump and a handful of Republicans want to show unwavering commitment to a symbolic and physical representation of xenophobia.
There’s actually an important distinction to be made between Trump and Republicans. After refusing to sign the bill, the President shifted the blame to Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, begging him to use the “nuclear option” in a Friday morning tweet, meaning he wants McConnell to eliminate the filibuster. Although that would help the border wall funding run through, it would mean trouble for Republicans next year, when Democrats take back the house and the GOP finds itself without one of its favorite tactics. That route is unlikely, which means the pressure turns back to Trump.
More than likely, another bill will show up on the President’s desk that doesn’t include a check for his favorite buzzword. Democrats and Republicans alike are frustrated at Trump’s refusal of the original budget, which he said he’d sign before facing backlash from his MAGA crew. Republican Senator Marco Rubio told reporters “On Wed the WH said [they’re] “open” to Senate bill. They should have just told us they opposed it BEFORE we wasted time voting on it,” per Politico. Hawaiian Senator Brian Schatz tweeted:
Trump, meanwhile has gone whole hog on threatening to shut it all down, blaming Democrats for his wild behavior. His Twitter feed is ablaze with comments deflecting responsibility for what he says will be “a very long” shutdown. Notice also the shift in his stance. During the argument with Pelosi, Schumer and the specter of Mike Pence, he said he’d proudly shutdown the government. Now, he wants nothing to do with it.
So here’s what he’s likely going to do when he doesn’t get what he wants. In a government shutdown, the president is allowed to deem certain government agencies essential or non-essential, meaning it’s up to him to decide which agencies continue function and which ones don’t. When he refuses to sign the adjusted budget, he’ll likely be ready to dole out those designations. Depending on how much of a power move he wants to make, he could wipe out something like air traffic control, obviously upsetting a huge part of the country traveling over the holiday season, as Vox points out. Hopefully he’s not that much of an idiot.
More than likely, Trump’s overwhelming bullheadedness and need for love from his base will result in a government shutdown come midnight tonight. Democrats, equally immovable, would have to fork over their votes in the House, but the odds of that are unlikely. The government shutdown game, as ever, is one blaming the other for forcing their hand. But the last person to make the decision, the one it all hangs on, is pouting in the Oval Office.