Just the Facts

Five Facts on How The Current Shutdown Drama Could Play Out

By No Labels
January 8, 2019 | Blog

Portions of the federal government have been closed for more than two weeks as congressional Democrats clash with President Trump over funding for a wall on America’s southern border. Tonight, the president will address the nation from the Oval Office, hoping to use this primetime platform as an opportunity to pressure Democrats into allocating funds for the wall. But Democrats seem to have little appetite for backing down. With negotiations at an impasse, we take a look at how the current shutdown drama could play out.

Republicans and Democrats make a deal

In mid-December, the Senate passed a bipartisan spending bill that would have provided funding through February 8, avoiding the partial shutdown that has kept large portions of the government shuttered for weeks. The deal was stalled by hardline conservatives in the House who heavily lobbied President Trump to oppose the legislation because it didn’t include wall funding. While President Trump and congressional leaders have met numerous times to try to hash things out, no progress has been made—neither side has been willing to budge. There are, however, areas where compromise is possible: As The Washington Post editorial board and The New York Times columnist David Brooks (among others) have recently proposed, Democrats could provide additional funding for the wall in exchange for a permanent fix to DACA that gives permanent status to the DREAMERs.

President Trump concedes

Despite his strong stance on the importance of the border wall, it is possible that mounting political pressure could prove to be too much for the president. There are more than 800,000 workers either furloughed or working without pay, including more than 40,000 TSA agents who have reportedly been calling in sick at drastically increased rates, causing flight delays and increasing the potential for security lapses. Further complicating matters for President Trump is eroding support for the shutdown among congressional Republicans. GOP leaders in the House fear that several dozen Republican representatives could cross the aisle and vote to re-open the government, while Republican Senators Cory Gardner (CO) and Susan Collins (ME) have publicly called for the president to end the shutdown.

Democrats concede

With Democrats controlling the House and Republicans needing 60 votes to pass an appropriations bill in the Senate, any potential funding bill would require Democratic support—and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA) have been blunt about their opposition. It seems unlikely that Speaker Pelosi will abdicate her newly regained power and provide additional funding to a border wall that is incredibly unpopular within her party. And Democrats have been bolstered by recent polling, which shows that 55% of Americans blame either President Trump or congressional Republicans for the shutdown, while only 35% blame Democrats.

They strike a deal to partially re-open the government while debate over the border wall continues

While the shutdown has focused mainly on funding for the border wall, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security, the Departments of Agriculture, Justice, and Commerce have also gone without funding despite having little or nothing to do with the wall. House Democrats have announced plans to fund each of these departments on an individual basis, which would put hundreds of thousands of employees back to work and fund agencies like the IRS, the Parks Service, and the federal courts system. However, Senate Republicans and President Trump have both pushed back against this idea, arguing instead for funding the government all at once.

President Trump declares a national emergency to fund the border wall

Last week President Trump announced that he was considering declaring a national emergency under the National Emergencies Act of 1976. In so doing, the president would be able to direct billions of dollars towards the construction of his border wall—without congressional approval. While it is all but certain that such a move would be challenged in the courts (where it could be stalled for years), it would also give President Trump an exit ramp, allowing him to declare victory on a central campaign promise, while also giving him the breathing room to re-open the government.

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