The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is seen as the sun sets on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 7, 2013.
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

White House’s ‘heavy hand’ makes government shutdown more likely

When it comes to putting a price tag on Donald Trump’s proposed border wall, estimates vary quite a bit. The White House started the year using a $12 billion figure, while congressional Republicans said $15 billion. The Department of Homeland Security thinks the costs may reach $20 billion, while congressional Democrats believe it’s more realistic to say $70 billion.

There’s no shortage of problems with this. The president may dream of a giant wall separating the United States and Mexico, but there’s little public support for the project, and even less backing for spending billions of our taxpayer dollars on it. (The idea that Trump would get Mexico to pay for this has always been one of the Republican’s more ridiculous campaign pledges.)

And yet, we’re confronted with the possibility that short-term funding for Trump’s wall may push the country towards a government shutdown next week. The Associated Press reported yesterday:
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney says that Democratic negotiators on a massive spending bill need to agree to funding top priorities of President Donald Trump such as a down payment on a border wall and hiring of additional immigration agents.

Mulvaney told The Associated Press in an interview that “elections have consequences” and that “we want wall funding” as part of the catchall spending bill, which lawmakers hope to unveil next week.
Look, avoiding a government shutdown a week from today poses plenty of existing challenges. Democratic and Republican lawmakers – and their staffers who’ve been working on this during Congress’ spring break – are trying to reach agreements on several contentious issues, ranging from pensions to health care to reproductive rights. Since both parties want to avoid a shutdown, there’s reason to believe they’ll work something out, but no one should see this as easy.

But Team Trump’s border-wall push yesterday made things worse. I heard from Matt House, a spokesperson for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who said via email, “Everything had been moving smoothly until the administration moved in with a heavy hand. Not only are Democrats opposed to the wall, there is significant Republican opposition as well.”

The administration doesn’t seem to care. Mulvaney, the far-right Budget Director told the AP, “We know there are a lot of people on the Hill, especially in the Democratic Party, who don’t like the wall, but they lost the election. And the president should, I think, at least have the opportunity to fund one of his highest priorities in the first funding bill under his administration.”

That’s simply not going to happen, not only because Democrats are staunchly opposed, but also because they have no real incentive to go along with such a demand. The more the White House insists on this, the greater the likelihood the government will shut down in seven days.

A Politico report added, “Republicans said privately it would be helpful for Mulvaney and the White House to concede that the Democrats are not going to fund the wall and move on. But there is a combative element to the divided Trump White House that believes otherwise.”

I continue to believe this is a misguided strategy that will ultimately fail. As we discussed yesterday, if Team Trump sticks to its guns, there will be a shutdown, which will damage the White House politically. If Team Trump backs down in the face of Democratic opposition, the president will once again look like a weak paper tiger, talking tough but failing to follow through when the pressure’s on.

My best guess is that there won’t be a shutdown, but the likelihood is greater now than it was 24 hours ago.

Donald Trump, Government Shutdowns and White House

White House's 'heavy hand' makes government shutdown more likely