- Washington is lurching toward a federal government shutdown in early December.
- President Donald Trump and congressional leaders prevented one fairly easily in September. This time will be different.
In September, President Trump and Congressional leaders had a pretty easy time avoiding a government shutdown.
All parties agreed to defer hard questions about spending levels for a few months, passing a temporary bill to keep the government open — and Trump caved to Democrats’ demand that all aspects of the deal, including the increase in the federal debt limit, be kept short-term.
You may recall this as the period of warm relations between Trump and “Chuck and Nancy” — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
That short-term government funding deal reached during that brief period will run out on December 8. And I don’t think a compromise is going to be so easy to reach this time.
The tax bill gives Democrats a reason not to agree to an easy deal
After the September deal was reached, there was some murmuring that Democrats had made a blunder. Because Congress didn’t have to spend September debating spending bills to keep the government open, Republicans had time to make one more run at repealing Obamacare before the budget resolution enabling them to do so ran out on September 30.
Ultimately, that effort (known as the Cassidy-Graham proposal) didn’t pan out. But there’s a relevant lesson for Democrats: Cutting an easy deal on government funding would give Republicans more time over the next few weeks to focus on passing a tax bill that Democrats hate.
A shutdown would considerably complicate the politics of passing the tax plan. Are Republicans going to cut corporate taxes while government offices and national parks are closed?
A shutdown threat gives Democrats rare policy leverage
In September, when Trump struck his government-funding deal with “Chuck and Nancy,” there was a thought the spending deal might be a prelude to a bipartisan deal to provide a legislative fix for the legally shaky Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Trump had announced would end in March 2018.
Talks about a bipartisan deal to fix DACA have stalled. So have talks about shoring up Obamacare’s individual health insurance markets. So have talks about reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program. So have talks about prohibiting bump-stock devices of the sort used in the Las Vegas massacre.
Democrats are in the minority in Congress. But their votes are needed to move a spending bill through the Senate, and therefore are needed to either avert or end a government shutdown.
This is their best opportunity to make demands about those stalled issues, and you can expect them to do so. Those demands will be hard for Republicans to meet. It’s a reason to think we won’t avoid a shutdown like we did in September.
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