A government funding stalemate. What is Trump's next move?

From televised blow-up to relative silence: spending negotiations remain frozen as the days tick away toward...

Posted: Dec 13, 2018 2:54 PM
Updated: Dec 13, 2018 2:54 PM

From televised blow-up to relative silence: spending negotiations remain frozen as the days tick away toward a partial government shutdown. The next big question now is what House GOP leaders, in their final days in the majority, will do to kick the legislative process into gear. As of Wednesday night, decisions hadn't been finalized -- and there were clear strategic disputes inside the conference about the next steps.

Aides with direct knowledge tell me Democrats and Republicans still aren't talking about next steps, but there's also an understanding it's up to President Donald Trump to counter -- something that isn't expected until House Republicans decide on how they plan to proceed. To be perfectly clear -- the House GOP effort, whatever it is, is dead on arrival in the Senate and may not have the votes to even pass the House. But it's an important step in the process.

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Days until a partial government shutdown

9

What to watch today

  • House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi holds a press conference at 10:45 a.m.
  • What, if anything, House GOP leaders announce as their next steps.

What to read

So what does actually happen in a partial government shut down? CNN's Clare Foran has your answers.

Something that several aides have noticed

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer took to the Senate floor to say the President lived "in a cocoon" surrounded by "obsequious" advisers who fail to tell him when he's wrong. Pelosi had, for all intents and purposes, questioned the president's manhood a private meeting (that subsequently leaked). And yet aside from a single tweet that obliquely referenced the wall Wednesday morning, the President has been largely silent -- and has not counter punched on personal terms at all. Aides and lawmakers in both parties who are working on this are wondering why.

CNN asked one senior GOP aide working on this what it all meant: "Could be a good sign. Could mean he's going to unload today. Could mean nothing at all. Keep checking your Twitter alerts, I guess."

What the House GOP is considering

House Republican leaders, according to aides, are considering a few options that would address the President's request for $5 billion in wall funding -- including a short-term draft that freezes other government spending levels and a broader package that would include the wall funding and the remaining appropriations bills.

The issue for leaders is a familiar one: they'll likely need to pack whatever they propose with conservative priorities, specifically on immigration, that could turn off the more moderate members of the conference. And a good number of those moderates? They are the same group that lost in the November midterms.

Nothing the House GOP passes or fails to pass has a future. But, as has been the case in these types of negotiations for the last five or so years, GOP leaders have to show something doesn't have a future (i.e. pass it in the House and watch it fail in the Senate) to be able to come back to their members with compromise proposals.

In other words, House GOP leaders, who are either about to be in the minority or are leaving Congress, are having a difficult internal debate over something they all know will fail, and are forced to do in large part because the President and Pelosi got in a tiff about House whip counts. As one senior GOP aide noted with sarcasm after running through the dynamics: "Good times."

"Whether or not to do it is a question of wisdom and strategy and tactics, and it's highly debatable about whether or not that's the right move." -- Rep. Patrick McHenry, the chief deputy whip (and soon to be ranking member of the Financial Services Committee), to reporters.

GOP leaders say explicitly they'll have the votes for anything they put on the floor (though some of their colleagues are less sure). But their advisers acknowledge it will definitely be tight, with attendance issues also expected to be a potential problem (there were 19 total lawmakers who didn't show up for the Farm Bill vote Wednesday).

Which means that any House show vote on the President's $5 billion wall request will likely come down to moderate members who lost in November -- many of the same members Trump trashed at his press conference after the election.

Daily reminder on the facts

Approximately 75% of the federal government is funded through September 2019. No shutdown is pain free, should it occur, this would be limited in its disruption, at least compared to past full government shutdowns. The Pentagon is funded. The Health and Human Services and Labor Departments are funded -- etc. etc.

That doesn't mean it will be pain free -- agencies like the Treasury Department, Department of Homeland Security and Justice Department are not currently funded beyond December 21, and non-essential employees would face furloughs, essential employees (virtually all of DHS and the DOJ's law enforcement elements) would be working through Christmas without pay.

There are seven appropriations bills that need to be passed before midnight on December 21. Six of them are mostly closed out, aides say, and ready to move. The fight was, is, and will continue to be over a single piece of a single bill: the Department of Homeland Security funding measure.

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