Both sides digging in for post-midterm shutdown fight

Both sides digging in for post-midterm shutdown fight

Congress averted a government shutdown this past weekend, but the real standoff may come in December.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpReturn hope to the Middle East by returning to the Iran Deal Government shutdowns tend to increase government spending 'Full Frontal' gives six-bedroom house to group that works with detained immigrants MORE has been pressing Congress to deliver funding for his proposed border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, but Republican leaders, eager to avoid a pre-election shutdown, punted the thorny political fight until after the midterms by providing stopgap funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other agencies through Dec. 7.

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By then, GOP lawmakers may be far more willing to dig in for a contentious fight. If Democrats win back the House, the lame-duck session of Congress may be the GOP’s last chance to secure funding for some time.

If Republicans end up retaining their majorities in both the House and Senate, Trump may be eager to score a major legislative victory on one of his chief campaign promises before the end of the year. That would also give the GOP room to argue that Election Day results were a referendum on building the wall.

But with Democrats unlikely to compromise under either scenario, the odds of a government shutdown in December increase significantly.

“It’s possible it could lead to a shutdown,” Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeTrump finds himself isolated in shutdown fight Trump leaves GOP in turmoil with shutdown looming GOP struggles to win votes for Trump’s B wall demand MORE (R-Okla.), a senior appropriator, said of the border wall fight. “I would hope not.”

“But a lot depends on what happens in the election itself, and how it is interpreted by the two sides,” he added.

Trump on Monday alluded to the looming funding fight, saying he has a “big decision” to make on the border wall.

“I’ve got a big decision to make after the election, as to whether or not we go for it,” Trump said on Monday, the first day of the new fiscal year. “Because border security, to the people of our country, [is] very important.”

“I really think I have a very big decision to make, sometime right after the election, very quickly,” Trump said from the Rose Garden, where he was touting the new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico.

The president went on to say that he would have preferred to put up a fight before the Nov. 6 elections, but acknowledged it could have hurt Republican candidates running in tight races.

“Do I want to do it before the election? Personally, yes, but I don’t want to do that for a different reason,” he said. “Because I have some very fine people that are running in close races and it may affect them, it may not.”

“I happen to think it would be good for them,” Trump added.

The president signed a government spending bill on Friday that fully funds the departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services and Education through fiscal 2019.

The funding package included a continuing resolution (CR), or short-term spending patch, for the remaining government funding bills that Congress failed to agree on before the Sept. 30 deadline. The CR includes money for the DHS, which has jurisdiction over Trump's proposed border wall.

Trump had previously threatened to veto any spending bills if the wall was not funded to his satisfaction. But at the behest of GOP leadership, who warned that a government shutdown could be disastrous for the party, he ultimately chose to delay that fight until after the midterms.

Most congressional observers are expecting Trump and conservatives to dig in hard after November and demand billions of dollars for the border wall in the next funding bill.

If Republicans hold the majority, you can expect that we will put up a strong fight for funding for the wall and leave all options on the table,” said one GOP aide.

The Senate's version of the DHS spending bill would provide $1.6 billion for pedestrian fencing, while the House version includes $5 billion for the wall.

Leaders of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, who have leverage in spending talks whenever Democrats aren’t on board, have been some of the most outspoken proponents of the wall, and are promising to push for it again after the elections.

“The single biggest promise we made the American people in 2016 was building the border security wall and we haven’t got it done,” Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanJim Jordan predicts there will be no government shutdown Boehner working on memoir: report Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by Amgen — For Republicans, fight over fetal tissue research comes back to Planned Parenthood | CDC traces contaminated romaine lettuce to California farm | Dems aim to punt vote on ObamaCare taxes MORE (R-Ohio), a founding member of the Freedom Caucus who is running for Speaker, told Fox News last week. “If we keep the majority and I’m given the chance to lead, we’re going to focus on getting that done.”

But Democrats, whose cooperation is needed to get any spending legislation over the finish line in the Senate, have been unwilling to support federal funding for the wall.

“We continue to oppose increased funding for the wall. We don’t think it’s a good use of taxpayer dollars,” said one Democratic aide. “That’s been our position throughout this process.”

That means Congress is barreling toward another spending showdown when the CR expires on Dec. 7, stepping up the likelihood of a partial government shutdown.

Since major parts of the government are already funded through Sept. 30, a shutdown in December could be less painful — and therefore easier — for lawmakers to go through with.

“All that makes the stakes not quite as high as a normal government shutdown, though it’s still not a good thing in my view,” Cole said.

The government shuttered for a few days earlier this year when Democrats were demanding action to protect so-called Dreamers, immigrants who came to the country illegally as children.

Democrats took some heat for that shutdown, which the GOP dubbed “Schumer’s shutdown” in reference to Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMcConnell’s marijuana conundrum: Cory Gardner Democrats must stand up for Israel Retired Gen. McChrystal: Sending troops to build wall could be seen as ‘misuse of power’ MORE (D-N.Y.).

“We won the last shutdown fight over immigration issues,” said another GOP aide. “If we keep the House, the Democrats will have to seriously reflect on how Americans actually view illegal immigration.”

There is some concern in conservative circles that if Republicans lose the House, the GOP conference will be more willing to strike an immigration deal that protects Dreamers in exchange for funding the wall. Congress has so far been unable to come to an agreement on the issue this year, but it could be an easier lift after the midterms.

If lawmakers can’t find a path forward on immigration and the wall, they could end up passing another CR for the Department of Homeland Security. But such a measure would need a level of support in both chambers to survive a potential presidential veto.

“I can see a scenario where we stumble into a long-term CR for DHS,” Cole said. “A deal is always better than a shutdown, because then you create winners and losers. And I don’t think either side is gonna be willing to lose.”

“If we get into that, we’re gonna have a stalemate,” he added.