Everything appeared to be on track. The Senate last night approved a stopgap spending measure – known as a “continuing resolution” (or CR) – that would prevent a government shutdown and keep federal operations funds through Feb. 8. Though the bill included none of the money Donald Trump requested for a border wall, senators from both parties were content to leave that fight for another day.
The Senate CR passed on a voice vote.
So, all’s well that ends well? See you in the new year? Not so fast.
President Donald Trump planned to meet with Republican lawmakers Thursday amid widespread confusion over the White House position on a short-term government funding bill.
“At this moment, the President does not want to go further without border security, which includes steel slats or a wall. The President is continuing to weigh his options,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement announcing the meeting.
To the extent that the president’s Twitter feed reflects his genuine beliefs, Trump published a missive this morning that read, “When I begrudgingly signed the Omnibus Bill, I was promised the Wall and Border Security by leadership. Would be done by end of year (NOW). It didn’t happen! We foolishly fight for Border Security for other countries - but not for our beloved U.S.A. Not good!”
It was the first sign of real trouble. It came against a backdrop in which House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) held a GOP conference meeting, which he interrupted to take a phone call from Trump. And while we don’t know what exactly was said, soon after, the press conference House Republican leaders had scheduled on Capitol Hill was canceled.
The top three members of the House GOP leadership headed to the White House for a previously unscheduled meeting, and they were reportedly joined by Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) – neither of whom are party leaders, but both of whom help lead the right-wing House Freedom Caucus.
Meadows and Jordan, naturally, are fighting for wall funding, and are threatening to at least try to derail the stopgap spending bill unless it meets Trump’s wishes.
So, now what?
We’ll know more after the White House meeting, which began around noon, but by all accounts, Trump really doesn’t want to sign another clean bill. He’ll be egged on by Meadows and Jordan, who’ll tell him to keep fighting until his demands are met.
One possible resolution for this might be a House vote on Trump’s preferred approach. If it fails – or more likely, when it fails – GOP leaders will be able to credibly tell the president, “Well, we gave it our best shot, but your plan doesn’t have the votes. A clean CR is the only option left.”
Alternatively, maybe the House will somehow scrape together the necessary votes to pass a Trump-backed bill, at which point it would bounce back to the Senate, where it would inevitably fail.
Either way, if Trump throws a tantrum, it won’t get him very far. He can sign a clean spending bill now, or he can shut down the government and sign a clean spending bill later.
I still expect the president to cave, as he’s done before several times, but the likelihood of a shutdown appears to be stronger than 12 hours ago.
Update: After the White House meeting, Paul Ryan said Trump intends to oppose a clean spending bill that lacks wall funding. The deadline before a possible shutdown is tomorrow night.