It’s one of those nagging details that many would prefer not to think about, but policymakers in D.C. are facing an inflexible deadline: a week from tomorrow, current federal funding will run out. Failing to act would lead to yet another government shutdown.
The Associated Press reported yesterday that a deal appears to be in place to kick the can down the road for a month, preventing the fourth shutdown of Donald Trump’s presidency.
A top House lawmaker announced Tuesday that Congress will pass a governmentwide temporary spending bill to keep the government running through Dec. 20, forestalling a government shutdown as the House turns its focus to impeachment hearings.
Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., made the announcement after meeting with Senate counterpart Richard Shelby, R-Ala., in hopes of kick-starting long-delayed efforts to find agreement on $1.4 trillion worth of agency spending bills.
The plan, at least for now, is for Congress to approve a stop-gap spending measure some time over the next week and send it to the White House for a presidential signature. It would delay the threat of another shutdown by a month.
At that point, lawmakers can return to the negotiating table, hoping to work out a larger spending package that would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year, which runs through the end of September.
In theory, this shouldn’t be too difficult – the parties are roughly on board with spending levels – but in a familiar dynamic, congressional Republicans are pushing for billions of dollars in border barrier funds to make Donald Trump happy. As has long been the case, congressional Democrats aren’t going along.
How this will be resolved is anyone’s guess, but there are couple of angles worth watching as the process moves forward. The first is the likelihood that the fight over a spending package is likely to intersect with the fight over presidential impeachment. It’s all but certain to create political conditions that are as volatile as they are unpredictable.
And speaking of volatility and unpredictability, the other angle of note is Donald Trump.
As of last week, the White House said the president was comfortable with a stop-gap measure – known as a “continuing resolution” – that would delay the next fight until Dec. 20. For those hoping to avoid a shutdown, this was good news, although there have been other instances in which the White House has made similar declarations, only to have Trump go in an entirely different direction for reasons unknown.
Indeed, it was just last Sunday when a reporter asked the president whether a shutdown was a possibility. “No, no, no,” the Republican replied. Moments later, however, there was this exchange:
Q: Can you commit to no government shutdown? I mean, can you – for people that are concerned, what would you say?
TRUMP: It depends on – it depends on what the negotiation – I wouldn’t commit to anything. It depends on what the negotiation is.
These comments came on the heels of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) telling reporters, “I’m increasingly worried that President Trump will want to shut down the government again because of impeachment. He always likes to create diversions. I hope and pray he won’t want to cause another government shutdown because it might be a diversion away from impeachment.”
Watch this space.