Why the government could be headed for another shutdown
The Fix’s Colby Itkowitz analyzes four possible scenarios as congressional negotiators work to avoid a second
government shutdown in 2019. (Reprinted with Permission – The Washington Post) February 11 at 11:29 P.M.
At the end of last week, the congressional negotiators tasked with averting another painful government shutdown seemed on their way to reaching an agreement, and President Trump seemed likely, even if begrudgingly, to sign whatever they offered.
The framework would provide $1.375 billion for barriers along the border, including 55 miles of new fencing, with certain restrictions on the location, according to a congressional official familiar with the agreement. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the agreement had not been made public.
But talks hit a roadblock over the weekend. Democrats agreed to allow that some money, although not the full amount President Trump wants, could go toward physical barriers at the U.S.-Mexico border. But in exchange they wanted limits on how many immigrants could be detained at the border.
This latest breakdown comes with just days before funding is set to run out again for about 25 percent of the federal government if Congress does nothing. No matter what happens, Trump has strongly suggested that he will declare some kind of national emergency and move money around to put toward the construction of a border wall. At this point, he has taken a hands-off approach because he wants Congress to bear the responsibility.
So with the Friday deadline looming for a deal, here are the various ways this could all end.
They make a deal
No one wants another government shutdown. Although the White House talks a big game about the possibility
of letting it happen, there is no political benefit to Trump of allowing a shutdown, save for satisfying his most ardent anti-immigrant supporters. The shutdown was deeply unpopular, economically harmful and Trump shouldered most of the blame for it. In this scenario, both sides come to an agreement they can live with, perhaps even with a promise to take a harder look at immigration outside the government funding process. This will happen only if the pressure not to shut down the government is stronger than the desire to win.
They open everything except DHS
The Democrats broached this idea during the last shutdown. Because border security falls under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), why not fund all the other unrelated departments and keep negotiating over DHS’s budget? Although that would save a lot of federal workers and contractors the heartache of more missed paychecks and uncertainty, the agencies within DHS are the ones that caused the most consternation. Those include the Transportation Security Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection. It would still be a major strain if people employed by those agencies are forced to work without pay for an undetermined length of time.
They buy themselves more time
If congressional leaders can stomach it, they could pass yet another clean continuing resolution to allow them a few more weeks to keep negotiating on a larger deal. It’s hard to imagine anyone agreeing to this unless a deal is very, very close, and a couple of more days are needed to reach the finish line. If talks are still at an impasse by the end of the week, it’ll be a hard sell that a few more weeks would change anything.
They shut down the government
A week ago, this would have seemed highly unlikely with or without a deal from the congressional negotiators. But here we are, once again, talking about the government shutting down by the end of Friday. Even the thought of another shutdown is enough to send those affected last time into a state of high anxiety. Could Congress really let Friday come and go without doing anything to stop another impasse? And if the government shuts down again, to what end?