Hey guys, remember that time when Preznint Stupid said that what we really needed was a good government shutdown?
either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51%. Our country needs a good “shutdown” in September to fix mess!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 2, 2017
So are we heading towards a shut-down or not? Kinda sounds like it:
So, if Congress is 98-for-100 in getting the job done, should we really be all that worried this year? The answer, according to law professor and former member of the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation Edward D. Kleinbard, is “yes.” He points out a trio of warning signs. The first, of course, is that Donald Trump’s administration is understaffed and inexperienced. From Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin on down, most of Team Trump has little knowledge of how to manage this particular situation. The second problem is that the House Freedom Caucus is smarting from the failure to repeal Obamacare, and is signaling a willingness to use the ceiling in an effort to bend Congress to their will. It likely won’t work, as the Democrats are definitely dug in, and the moderate Tuesday Group is growing weary with their far-right GOP colleagues. If nobody backs down, we could be looking at a very expensive game of chicken.
The third problem is, in effect, a combination of the other two. The one high-ranking person in the White House who does have relevant experience with the federal budget is Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney. And, as it just so happens, he helped found the Freedom Caucus while he was in Congress. Mulvaney—in opposition to virtually all of the experts—doesn’t believe that hitting the debt ceiling is a big problem. His view is that, if it becomes necessary, the government can adopt an approach to bill-paying called “prioritization,” wherein the “most important” bills get paid first, and then everyone else waits. This may sounds exactly like how the average American household manages its bills, but the U.S. Treasury isn’t the average American household. It’s entirely unclear how it would be determined which bills are “most important,” and doing this might not even be legal, anyhow. If that’s not enough, it’s also the case that this kind of robbing Peter to pay Paul would not stop the United States’ credit rating from being dinged. In other worlds, Mulvaney is willing to gamble an awful lot of money on a theory that doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny.
Whether or not a disaster comes to pass is likely in the President’s hands. If he uses whatever political capital he has left to encourage Congress to raise the budget ceiling, they would probably follow his lead. However, Trump has never shown a sophisticated understanding of this subject. More specifically, he’s never shown an awareness that the budget of the federal government is not a larger version of the budget of the Trump Organization. If Mulvaney gets in Trump’s ear, and convinces him that standing firm on the debt ceiling will be a “win” and will make the President look like a skilled businessman who is serious about reining in costs, then The Donald might go for it. We shall soon see. Congress will be back in session on September 5, and the debt ceiling will be reached sometime in early October. That gives the House—where budget resolutions must originate—about 20 working days to figure it out. (Z)
So is it just another dick-waving moment or is there something else in play? Take it away, Axios:
Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, says the Trump administration has clear expectations for the fall: “We get tax reform and we also complete funding of the government which includes rebuilding of the military and securing our border.” (Read: the wall.)
Sources inside and close to Republican Hill leadership, however, are privately less sanguine:
- Some say there’s a good chance of a government shutdown before the end of the year because of deep rifts over spending priorities.
- No one sees Trump’s wall getting much more than a symbolic nod, which is sure to anger Trump and the Bannon faction, and could lead to a shutdown.
- Tax reform in this calendar year seems increasingly unlikely. A bill and big debate? Yes. Something signed into law? Very hard given the points above and persistently deep disagreements over which loopholes to keep and how to pay for the tax cuts.