Donald Trump threatens to shut down his own government if he doesn't get taxpayer funding for wall | Arkansas Blog

Monday, April 24, 2017

Donald Trump threatens to shut down his own government if he doesn't get taxpayer funding for wall

Posted By on Mon, Apr 24, 2017 at 10:14 AM

Friday looms as the deadline for Congress to pass a spending bill; if they fail to do so by midnight, the government will shut down. D.C. observers seem to think that the most likely scenario is a stopgap bill to fund the government for another week or so while lawmakers try to work out a deal. We'll see.

The wild card here is the fella in the Oval Office, who is reportedly desperate for a "win" after no legislative accomplishments in the first 100 days (Friday, as it happens, is Day 100). The White House has been signalling that they want to play hardball on certain demands — billions in funding to build a border wall (Trump is still claiming that Mexico will pay for the wall some day over the rainbow but for now he is demanding cash from American taxpayers), and billions more in increased funding for immigration enforcement officers and more military spending.

Democrats have already made clear that they would filibuster a bill with poison pill provisions such as funding for the border wall or defunding Planned Parenthood. As it happens, many Republican lawmakers also refuse to fund a border wall. Trump, however, has threatened not to sign a funding bill that doesn't include significant taxpayer money for the wall. And that's not all: he's also threatening to attempt to use a legal maneuver to strip subsidies that make health insurance affordable for millions of lower- and middle-income Americans.  This would throw the insurance markets into chaos and create a horrifying catastrophe for millions of people who would suddenly be unable to afford health insurance they were counting on. It sounds like it might be an unpopular move by the president (and polling suggests that Republicans would take the blame), but that's the threat he's making. In response, Democrats are demanding that permanent funding for those subsidies be included in the spending agreement.

Because Republicans control the Senate, the House, and the White House, it would be highly unusual to end with a government shutdown (the only shutdowns that have occurred have happened under divided government). Trump, however, is — um — highly unusual.

Here's Brian Beutler at the New Republic on the dynamic:

Republicans want to spend more money on defense and immigration enforcement, Democrats want to fund other priorities, and to the extent that these different points of emphasis don’t cross any ideological redlines, the parties can accommodate one another. But Democrats won’t persuade Republicans to agree to adequately fund the IRS, just as Republicans won’t convince Democrats to help them gut the EPA. The construction of a wall along the southern border, meanwhile, is a non-starter for Democrats and many Republicans. A rational GOP president would accept this reality and move on. Trump has made its inclusion in the funding bill a top priority.

Trump scrambles what should be a fairly straightforward calculation, because he does not grasp the limits of his leverage, and may not fully grasp the larger point that the president shouldn’t shut down his own government in a fit over losing an extraneous policy fight.
As for Trump's threat to health insurance subsidies, Democrats have all the leverage, as the Washington Post's Greg Sargent explains:

The White House has adopted a new strategy in the battle over funding the government, one designed to compel Democrats to help fund Trump’s Mexican wall and expanded deportation force. White House budget director Mick Mulvaney is now saying that the White House might agree not to sabotage the Affordable Care Act — by funding the subsidies to insurance coverage for lower-income people which, if halted, could melt down the exchanges — if Democrats agree to fund the wall and more immigration enforcement agents.

But on the Thursday night conference call, House Dems resolved not to back down in the face of any such pressure, according to a readout of the call provided by a Democratic aide.

“We have the leverage and they have the exposure,” Dem leader Nancy Pelosi told people on the call, per the aide, adding that, because Republicans are in the majority, keeping the government funded will be seen as “their responsibility.” ...

The White House position is that the need to fund the CSRs [cost sharing reductions, a.k.a. subsidies] gives Trump leverage to demand funding for the wall and a deportation force. But why should Democrats give Republicans anything in exchange for funding the CSRs, when Republicans are currently trying to inflict far more damage on the Affordable Care Act than not funding the CSRs would?

Absurdly enough, even as the White House is demanding concessions in exchange for not sabotaging the ACA, it is also pushing Congress to vote on a new version of the GOP repeal-and-replace bill that would be even more regressive and destructive than the last one was. Trump would likely take the blame for the chaos and loss of coverage that killing funding for the CSRs would unleash. Why should Dems bail him out of that problem — and allow Republicans to wield the CSRs as leverage against them — as long as the drive to roll back coverage for far more people continues? This should — and likely will — increase the resolve of Dems to dig in harder.

Tellingly, multiple reports indicate that the White House is demanding a rushed vote on the new repeal-and-replace bill because aides are desperate to showcase something, anything, as a legislative achievement in time for the 100-day mark. So you’d think the last thing the White House can tolerate is a government shutdown on Trump’s watch at precisely that moment, which would further reinforce the image that Trump and Republicans are making an enormous mess of governing. And so, in the government funding fight, Democrats should see the looming 100-day milestone as something that also gives them increased leverage. Judging by last night’s Democratic conference call, they are aware of this.

So what's next? An unnamed source who sounds an awful lot like Donald Trump seemed to relish the prospect of a shutdown in a recent interview with the New Yorker:

"Next week is going to have quite high drama. It’s going to be action-packed. This one is not getting as much attention, but, trust me, it’s going to be the battle of the titans. And the great irony here is that the call for the government shutdown will come on—guess what?—the hundredth day. If you pitched this in a studio, they would say, ‘Get out of here, it’s too ridiculous.’ This is going to be a big one."

“This is going to be high-stakes poker,” the White House official said. When I asked if a shutdown was likely, the official paused for several seconds. “I don’t know,” the official said. The official added, “I just want my wall and my ice agents.”

In an interview with the AP, however, Trump's rambling answers seem to indicate that he has realized the limits of his leverage and may eventually sign a bill even if it doesn't include funding for the wall.

p.s. It's worth reiterating that this isn't just a fight between Democrats and Trump. There are really three sides here: Not all GOP lawmakers support including wall funding in this bill and, moreover, most Congressional Republicans have zero interest in shutting down the government their own party controls or pursuing what appears to be a hopeless kamikaze mission. As U.S. Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma put it today, “I wouldn’t risk a $1 trillion funding bill for a $3 billion wall.”


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