The budget deal does not avert a government shutdown this fall


Last week, the House passed a two-year budget deal to lift spending, suspend debt ceiling:

A large majority of Democrats voted for the legislation, while a majority of Republicans opposed it despite appeals from President Trump to support the bill.

The 284-149 vote was one of the last acts by the House before lawmakers leave Washington for a six-week summer recess.

This week: Senate races to wrap up work before recess:

Though the House left Washington until September last week, senators are scheduled to be in town through Thursday.

At the top of their agenda is passing the two-year budget agreement, which also suspends the debt ceiling through mid-2021.

“Obviously we need to pass the bipartisan funding agreement that President Trump’s negotiating team worked out with Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi. … The president is strongly in support of it. The Senate needs to pass it and put it on the president’s desk next week,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said during a floor speech where he outlined the chamber’s schedule ahead of the recess.

How soon Americans forget. We’ve seen this movie before. This budget “deal” could still blow up.

It was just last December when the House and Senate thought they had an agreement with the Trump White House on a spending bill, and then the GOP House Freedom Caucus and the conservative media entertainment complex cajoled Trump into reneging on his agreement and forced the “Trump Shutdown” of the government over funding for his “big beautiful wall” on the Mexico border. The Trump Shutdown: he’s dreaming of a white nationalist Christmas (when it was over, Trump still didn’t get his border wall funding).

The stakes are much higher this time. Without a budget deal, on October 1 the government will not only run out of funding and shut down, but the current government budget caps will expire, automatically triggering roughly $120 billion in across-the-board budget sequester cuts to domestic and military programs under the Budget Control Act of 2011. And if the U.S. defaults on its debt, it would cause an economic catastrophe. The last time Republicans played chicken with the debt ceiling, S.& P. Downgraded the Debt Rating of U.S. for the First Time (2011) in our history.

It appears that White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney may have talked Trump into a “Plan B” government shutdown in September over a spending bill for his border wall instead, with far less consequences.

Politico reports, Trump fumes over border wall as budget deal advances:

President Donald Trump is still fixated on his beloved border wall — complaining about media coverage and insisting to confidants behind closed doors that the replacement wall being funded by Congress is not getting the attention it deserves.

“The media is wrong. The wall is being built,” Trump told Senate Republicans at the White House last week, according to attendees. “400 miles of wall.”

Bullshit! The Washington Examiner reported last week, Trump has not built a single mile of new border fence after 30 months in office.

The Senate is on course to pass a sweeping, two-year budget agreement this week that averts the threat of default and avoids blunt spending cuts loathed by both parties.

But separate legislation to fund individual government agencies must still be passed by the end of September, and the bipartisan deal does little to spell out how Congress and the president will handle the issue that fueled the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

The Supreme Court delivered Trump a major victory on Friday, ruling that his administration can start using $2.5 billion in unspent military funds to construct a wall along the southern border. That could help satisfy Trump if he feels like he can point to progress on a key campaign promise.

But Republicans readily acknowledge they don’t know how the fall funding fight will play out and are reluctant to predict what Trump will do. They don’t know how hard Trump will push for a border wall, not to mention other hot-button immigration provisions. If he won’t compromise with the Democrats who control the House, a shutdown fight could ensue — exactly what GOP leaders are eager to avoid heading into an election year.

“I’m sure there’s going to be a fight over the border wall,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a close Trump ally, who added that he is far more eager to overhaul asylum laws, as Trump has also demanded.

Republicans are still smarting from last winter’s 35-day “Trump Shutdown” after Congress denied Trump $5 billion for the wall, as well as the tough votes they were forced to take on upholding his national emergency declaration and unilateral funding transfer. Unless Trump rescinds his national emergency, Republicans expect to be forced to vote on it again as soon as September.

Given that ugly history, GOP leaders hope they’ve secured enough releases to keep Trump from picking a border wall fight that ends in another shutdown.

For instance, the budget deal preserves the president’s power to redirect money from the Defense Department to a wall and included an agreement from Speaker Nancy Pelosi not to include “poison pill” policy provisions that might restrict Trump’s immigration agenda. Now, he’s also been given a green light from the Supreme Court to spend excess military personnel funds and other Pentagon money on border wall construction.

There’s also always the possibility of a stopgap spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security that would provide roughly $1.4 billion for improvements to existing border barriers. One senator predicted that stopgap could be applied all the way until November 2020.

Yet Republicans are realistic about the toxic mix of issues facing them ahead of a funding deadline that will approach quickly after Congress returns from its August recess. The Homeland Security spending bill is likely to be the last one written, considering how controversial immigration policy has become. And it’s not just the border wall that could trip up Congress, but also detention beds and ICE funding.

“It’s going to be challenging, no doubt. We’re just going to work hard to get the president’s priorities,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who leads the DHS spending committee. “We’re always going to be fighting over the wall and ICE beds, all the way until the election, even if we can settle it in our minds.”

Though the budget agreement is being widely sold as taking a shutdown off the table in September, few are willing to predict that it will stop another round of brinkmanship on the border. Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), a close Trump ally, said the president has not been boasting about the transfer authority he maintains, suggesting he’s still unsatisfied.

“It seems like the border wall is moving along so slowly even with money, much less without it,” Cramer said.

Continuing current funding for DHS would still give Trump wall money, albeit money for specific sections of fencing that have already been funded. Several lawmakers noted privately that, given those limitations, such a stopgap bill could annoy the president.

Democrats say they are pleased with their negotiating position heading into the fall since it preserves the status quo, even though the budget agreement maintains the president’s transfer authority, which he could try to use as a back door to slip billions into his border wall.

“I would like to see the current authority restricted,” said Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). “Of course, I’m concerned about it. But what I’m saying is: We’re not in any worse shape because of this agreement.”

Republicans are actively touting the preservation of the president’s border wall transfer authority as a huge concession by Democrats. They say that even though Democrats have the House, they won’t be able to stop the president from moving around money.

“It’s a win for the White House,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).

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Many Republicans are trying to redirect the president to other immigration fights, even if they are just as unwinnable as one over the wall.

Republicans have been pushing to scuttle the Flores settlement, a 1997 decision that allows the release of children after 20 days in federal custody. But asylum reforms are unlikely after bipartisan talks fell apart just days ago.

“We need money for the border wall, but more than anything else we need to change our laws because everybody coming here is trying to get caught,” said Graham. “My focus now is not the wall, it’s asylum.”

Even the Republicans who egged on Trump to shut down the government last year are now suggesting Republicans should prioritize dealing with the migrant influx and be satisfied with the border wall status quo.

“There’s still the $4 [billion] or $5 billion to construct border wall initiatives with reprogramming. And I know it was an issue with this budget deal to make sure that [Democrats] couldn’t stop that,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), one of Trump’s closest confidants and the head of the hard-line Freedom Caucus.

There’s a widespread belief within the GOP after the last shutdown that cooler heads will prevail both this fall and next.

Trump has shown ideological flexibility when it comes to increasing spending and cutting deals with Democrats to avoid a fight over the debt limit. And he’s signaled that he understands any budgetary chaos could hurt his reelection campaign.

But until the government is actually funded past September, few are willing to declare victory just yet.

The fact is, government shutdowns have never hurt Republicans in an election, which is why they always feel free to engage in criminal extortion. There has never been any serious consequences for their actions, especially from their base voters who are anti-government anyway. They don’t care who gets hurt in a government shutdown — just as long as their social security checks arrive on time.

While GOP leadership may say that they do not want a government shutdown this fall going into an election year, Donald Trump is likely to view it more as a positive than a negative, something with which to rile up his nativist white nationalist base with “build the wall!” (that they are paying for) at his campaign rallies. He’s still selling these gullible rubes his con.

If Trump is planning a government shutdown this fall, it will be forecast by Fox News aka Trump TV ramping up scaremongering about a new invasion of migrant caravans for a couple of weeks in advance. It’s all part of the reality TV propaganda programming that Fox does to sell the Trump agenda.