Congress moves to blunt Trump's shutdown threat

It's amazing how wonderfully the prospect of being hung concentrates the mind.

Congress, facing a serious threat from Donald Trump to shut down the government if he doesn't get funding for border security, including his wall, is working to mitigate that threat by passing spending bills in advance of the September 30 deadline.

Washington Times:

Congress is taking big strides to defuse President Trump's shutdown threat, working to pass as many spending bills as possible before next month's deadline so most of the government will remain open no matter what Mr. Trump demands on border security.

On Wednesday, the Senate cleared a $154 billion package that funds the Food and Drug Administration, the IRS and other programs for 2019.  Senators now have passed seven of the 12 bills needed to keep the government open.  The House has passed six.

Those measures still need to be reconciled in a conference committee, but lawmakers are pushing to have as many as nine bills completed before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, putting those operations on firm footing and outside the reach of a government shutdown.

"This is actually the way this work is supposed to be done," said Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican.  "It's supposed to be done before the 30th of September.  It's supposed to be done in smaller packages where members have a chance to debate the amendments on the floor, and we're doing that."

It has been years since Congress passed even one of the dozen bills on time, and Democrats and Republicans are intent on doing better this year to avoid an election-eve shutdown showdown.

Politicians, being generally cautious critters, don't want to take the chance that voters will blame them for even a partial shutdown.  But what does Trump think of this ploy?

Trump is keeping his powder dry, not indicating if he will sign any of these spending bills that, if most of them passed, would represent about 90% of discretionary spending for next year.

Democrats think he's bluffing:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, said the president's threats to shut down the government if he doesn't get enough money for his border wall are getting emptier as more spending bills advance.

"I think these threats are really ill-advised.  I don't think they're taken in a constructive way," Ms. Feinstein said.  "I mean, the Congress works its will, then the president gets the bills and he can work his will, but it doesn't work to make threats in my view."

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said the shutdown threats can't be dismissed outright, but Mr. Trump would be deciding to veto bills that pass Congress with bipartisan margins.

"If the president wants to veto appropriations bills, that's his decision," Mr. Durbin said.  "He has the last word on the veto pen.

"But what we have tried to do is to show bipartisanship, and we have produced results – actual bills on the floor, actual amendments – something almost close to debate.  All these things are good," the senator said.

This is exactly the kind of situation in which Trump revels: creating chaos and uncertainty from what should be routine.  The House and Senate have passed bills that contain substantial monies for a border wall but are far apart on amounts.  It is not likely that any agreement can be reached before the deadline.

But what about the rest of government?  Would Trump shut down the whole shebang by refusing to sign appropriations bills?  We haven't reached the point where Trump will be tested, so until then, what the president will do is anyone's guess.

It's amazing how wonderfully the prospect of being hung concentrates the mind.

Congress, facing a serious threat from Donald Trump to shut down the government if he doesn't get funding for border security, including his wall, is working to mitigate that threat by passing spending bills in advance of the September 30 deadline.

Washington Times:

Congress is taking big strides to defuse President Trump's shutdown threat, working to pass as many spending bills as possible before next month's deadline so most of the government will remain open no matter what Mr. Trump demands on border security.

On Wednesday, the Senate cleared a $154 billion package that funds the Food and Drug Administration, the IRS and other programs for 2019.  Senators now have passed seven of the 12 bills needed to keep the government open.  The House has passed six.

Those measures still need to be reconciled in a conference committee, but lawmakers are pushing to have as many as nine bills completed before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, putting those operations on firm footing and outside the reach of a government shutdown.

"This is actually the way this work is supposed to be done," said Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican.  "It's supposed to be done before the 30th of September.  It's supposed to be done in smaller packages where members have a chance to debate the amendments on the floor, and we're doing that."

It has been years since Congress passed even one of the dozen bills on time, and Democrats and Republicans are intent on doing better this year to avoid an election-eve shutdown showdown.

Politicians, being generally cautious critters, don't want to take the chance that voters will blame them for even a partial shutdown.  But what does Trump think of this ploy?

Trump is keeping his powder dry, not indicating if he will sign any of these spending bills that, if most of them passed, would represent about 90% of discretionary spending for next year.

Democrats think he's bluffing:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, said the president's threats to shut down the government if he doesn't get enough money for his border wall are getting emptier as more spending bills advance.

"I think these threats are really ill-advised.  I don't think they're taken in a constructive way," Ms. Feinstein said.  "I mean, the Congress works its will, then the president gets the bills and he can work his will, but it doesn't work to make threats in my view."

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said the shutdown threats can't be dismissed outright, but Mr. Trump would be deciding to veto bills that pass Congress with bipartisan margins.

"If the president wants to veto appropriations bills, that's his decision," Mr. Durbin said.  "He has the last word on the veto pen.

"But what we have tried to do is to show bipartisanship, and we have produced results – actual bills on the floor, actual amendments – something almost close to debate.  All these things are good," the senator said.

This is exactly the kind of situation in which Trump revels: creating chaos and uncertainty from what should be routine.  The House and Senate have passed bills that contain substantial monies for a border wall but are far apart on amounts.  It is not likely that any agreement can be reached before the deadline.

But what about the rest of government?  Would Trump shut down the whole shebang by refusing to sign appropriations bills?  We haven't reached the point where Trump will be tested, so until then, what the president will do is anyone's guess.