WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump says he’s willing to shut down government if he doesn’t get border wall money, Democrats are unwilling to give it to him and congressional Republicans are just looking for a way out.
Four days until a partial government shutdown, no one on Capitol Hill seems to know what will happen by the end of this week. Funding for a number of agencies will lapse at midnight Friday, and if Republicans can’t persuade Trump to give in on the wall ― at least temporarily ― there will be a shutdown over Christmas for many nonessential government workers.
GOP leaders seem to be preparing to ask Trump to go along with a temporary continuing resolution (CR), perhaps buying them two or three weeks. But Trump has shown a total willingness to accept a shutdown this time around. He made no qualms last week about saying he’d accept the blame during a meeting with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and he sent one of his most hard-line advisers ― Stephen Miller ― on the Sunday news shows to further suggest that he would not be caving.
But the consensus on Capitol Hill is that this eventually ends with Republicans caving, one way or another.
“We’re not winning this fight, and he’s the only one who doesn’t know it,” one senior GOP aide told HuffPost on Monday.
Another senior Republican aide said that, if Trump were smart, he’d take a short-term CR and fight the Democrats in January. “Otherwise, we shut it down over Christmas and Democrats are the heroes sending him clean CRs all of January and reminding everyone he shut the government down,” the aide said.
And if you were looking for a sense of how likely a shutdown is at this point, this aide added that he had not bought a plane ticket home for Christmas yet.
Capitol Hill sources said the White House was divided internally over whether Republicans should just agree to a CR or whether they should shut down government over Democrats not giving Trump border wall funding.
Again, no one sees this ending with border wall money. Democrats have even backed off earlier offers to give Trump a sizable amount of funding in exchange for a renewal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program. But there’s a real question whether Trump and other Republicans think they need a shutdown to show the GOP base that they’re fighting for their campaign pledges and that Democrats are standing in the way.
Trump has repeatedly signaled he would shut down the government over a lack of border wall funding, only to reluctantly sign a bill at the last minute when GOP leaders assure him this is the best deal he’ll get.
Last spring, Trump was ready to shut it down until aides told him he wouldn’t be able to go to his Mar-a-Lago golf resort in Florida for the weekend because of bad optics. “Fuck that,” Trump said, according to The Wall Street Journal, before calling a news conference to trash the bill that he had decided to sign.
But this time Trump seems like he’ll be harder to convince.
House Republican leaders had debated passing a funding bill ― either for the Department of Homeland Security or for all the remaining agencies ― that included $5 billion for the wall. But they decided it would likely be too tough of a haul with all the GOP members who have decided not to show up for the lame-duck session, and that the bill would just further bring them down a rabbit hole. (For a bill to reach the president’s desk, it needs 60 votes in the Senate, and Democrats in that chamber looked ready to block a bill if it got through the House, which was uncertain in the first place.)
Instead, Republicans are waiting Trump out a bit more, with the Senate waiting on the House and the House out until Wednesday night, hoping that Trump will have some change of heart as it gets closer to a shutdown.