'Shithole-Gate' Might Lead To Government Shutdown As Democrats Balk At Deal

The Democrats’ critics on the left are demanding that the minority party use all of its leverage to stymie the Trump agenda, even if that means forcing a government shutdown. Fortunately, more mainstream party members can now use Trump's "Shithole"” comment as a pretext to drop their support for an immigration compromise in the hope of eventually coaxing Republicans into a better deal.

Meanwhile, the GOP had concluded that it would be unable to reach a long-term spending accord by the Friday deadline, which means that chances of a government shutdown have increased this week as yet another "stop-gap" deal is the only option. The government has been operating on short-term spending authorizations since the last two-year budget expired in September. The current short-term spending bill expires Friday at midnight.


Last week, members of a bipartisan senate group that had been negotiating a DACA compromise for four months said they'd reached an agreement in principle. Then the Washington Post  published its story about Trump's response to leaving measures protecting Haitian and El Salvadoran immigrants intact.

There also appears to be some resistance from the White House. This morning, Trump retweeted a tweet he had sent Monday accusing Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, a member of the Democrat’s congressional leadership, of lying about the “shithole” remark, an affront that, Trump suggested, could preclude a DACA deal, the Washington Post reported.

Should a deal be reached, the most likely outcome would be another short-term spending stopgap that would expire in mid-February. According to WSJ, Freedom Caucus leader Rep. Mark Meadows suggested that his faction would agree to a short-term compromise if there was no other alternative to avert a shutdown. Extending the deadline would require what is known as a continuing resolution.

“There’s a great pushback to another CR, but with that being said, I don’t see that a shutdown’s an option, so obviously a CR is probably the only thing we’ve got in our tool bag before the 19th,” he said.

But some lawmakers, tired of perpetual can-kicking, have said they might not vote for a short-term bill.

“There’s a double chance I might not vote for it,” Rep. Tom Rooney (R., Fla.), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said about his support for a short-term spending bill. Among other things, he is concerned that disaster-relief money needed by orange growers in his state would be left out.

Of course, there are several other issues in addition to reauthroizing DACA that could disrupt the negotiations. Congress is also figuring out how to pay for a long-term reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and lawmakers in areas affected by recent natural disasters are asking for an increase in relief funding, which could complicate negotiations over even a short-term solution.

Aides to key negotiators from both parties planned to meet Tuesday in an effort to rekindle budget talks, setting up a Wednesday meeting of the leaders themselves. If they cannot agree, the government would shut down at midnight Friday for the first time since 2013.

Per Politico, Democrats will try to push Republicans into some sort of promise on DACA in exchange for cooperation with spending, but Republicans and Trump could blame them if a deal isn't reached. Despite the finger-pointing, Politico reckons that Speaker Ryan may have the most to lose.

"A government shutdown would be nettlesome for him, to say the least. He and his leadership team are seeing projections that they could lose something like 40 seats - which would cost them their majority. A shutdown does not do him any good. Ryan will need to cobble together 218 Republican votes to proceed without any Democratic votes.

Separately, one Forbes writer argued that Trump needs a shutdown to reassure his base that he’s still in control of the Republican Party.

Given the various firestorms that have occured just this past week - the book, the remark about Haiti and African countries and the hush money paid to a porn star - Trump may want to reassure his base that he is still very much in charge by refusing to sign even a simple, clean and short-term extension of the current continuing resolution. Even if it doesn't include anything about immigration, Trump could still demand funding for his wall and say he is more than willing to shut down the government until he gets it.

Trump would say this shows he is indeed the toughest of negotiators, that he's still determined to protect the U.S. and that he's keeping his campaign promises. All of these would be red meat for the Trump base and, in the White House's mind, would move the narrative away from the book, the remark and the porn star to something politically positive.

But rest assured: If a shutdown occurs, it  probably wouldn’t last longer than a couple of days. According to Forbes, Trump would then tell Congress that he will accept a short-term bill because “progress” had been made during weekend negotiations. This, of course, presupposes that Democrats and Republicans agree on a deal first.

But unless Trump decided to do something extraordinary like shutting the air traffic control system, the only real direct impact over the weekend would be on the very few people trying to use the suddenly closed national parks.The positive political impact Trump would be seeking from the shutdown would be immediate, however.

For that reason, if there is a Trump-induced shutdown this week, it wouldn't be at all surprising if it only lasted until next Monday. Trump would then tell Congress he will sign a short-term CR to reopen the government because (regardless of whether or not it was true) there was progress made over the weekend.

He would also at least hint that he'll shut the government again in the future if that's what it will take to get what he wants.

Meanwhile Republicans are already accusing Democrats of hamstringing the military, but Democrats, like Trump, have an optics problem: They need to prove to the #resistance that they’re capable of standing up to Trump and the Republicans. Since the start of his administration, they’ve appeared to be retreating. With the midterm elections coming up later this year, the pressure to change that perception will only intensify.