We’re nine days out from a government shutdown and – unlike the usual showdown mishigas – there’s plenty of reason to think the government might actually, you know, shut down come 11:59 p.m. on December 21.
And it’s not just the uber-contentious Oval Office meeting between President Donald Trump, likely House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday that broadcast to the country just how far apart the two sides are when it comes to funding for the border and/or Trump’s much ballyhooed wall.
Consider these factors:
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1) Trump believes his political success was built on the border wall promise. He has already let his deadlines to secure full funding pass several times. It feels like this may be the time he draws a line in the sand and sticks to it.
2) Democrats have zero incentive to help. Until January 2019, Republicans control the Senate, the House and the White House. And Trump will still be President come 2019. Because of those two facts, the belief among Democrats is that to the extent people care – more on that in a moment – they will blame Republicans for a shutdown.
3) Lots of losing House Republicans are free agents. There are dozens and dozens of House Republicans who blame Trump – and rightly so – for their defeats this fall. All of them will be voting on any sort of proposal that comes up to avert the government shutdown. Can Trump depend on those Republicans to be for him? (Answer: Probably not)
4) It’s the holidays. If ever there was a time when people were REALLY tuned out from politics in this politics-all-the-time age, it will be from Christmas to New Years. Which is, roughly, when the government shutdown would occur. That’s not to say both sides won’t blame the other for everything and insist the sky is falling. They will. It is to suggest voters might just shrug while drinking their eggnog and opening their presents.
5) This would be only a 25% shutdown. Congress has, somewhat miraculously, already funded three-quarters of the government thanks to the passage of a series of appropriations bills. The funding debate is really primarily, then, about the Department of Homeland Security and Trump’s call for significant funding for the wall. If the government shut down, it would really only be a 1/4 government shutdown – which might make people care less.
The Point: In the wake of Tuesday’s stunning Oval Office scrap, the mood on Capitol Hill seemed to be one of resignation – that a shutdown was coming and there wasn’t much anyone could or would do about it.