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Why Trump May Opt for a Shutdown

Michael Rainey

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks while participating in a tour of U.S.-Mexico border wall prototypes near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego, California. U.S., March 13, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President Trump’s abrupt criticism of a key spending bill yesterday has some political prognosticators saying there’s a real possibility of a government shutdown in the next 10 days.

The Senate bill that drew Trump’s ire is part of a larger spending package that would keep the government open when the new fiscal year starts on October 1. In a deal reached earlier this month, legislators agreed to put off the contentious issue of funding for Trump’s border wall until after the midterm elections. But that’s exactly what Trump is now upset about, and his tweet Thursday suggests that he may not go along with the deal.

Politico said Friday that there is a good political case to be made, at least from Trump’s perspective, for forcing a shutdown ahead of the elections. Some of Trump’s allies framed the issue this way to Politico’s reporters:

  • A shutdown may not hurt as much this time because it would likely be partial, with much of the government funded through the “minibus” spending bills that have already passed or are expected to pass next week. Given the structure of the spending deal, Trump could conceivably focus the shutdown just on the Department of Homeland Security.

  • A shutdown could excite the base, which is strongly interested in border security, with the goal of increasing Republican turnout in the midterms.

  • Given the Democratic wave many pundits see coming in the midterms, this could be Trump’s last chance to force the issue. A House controlled by Democrats isn’t likely to give Trump the funding he wants —Politico called the odds of that happening “Zero. Zip. Zilch.”

  • Trump has leverage ahead of the midterms, which he could use to pressure Republicans to provide billions more in funding for the wall. If they refuse, they could end up stuck in Washington, dealing with a partially shuttered Department of Homeland Security and all the problems and negative press that would produce, instead of being out on the campaign trail.

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