Goldman Sachs last week put the chances of a brief government shutdown next month at 50 percent, “as the president seeks to solidify support among his base by embracing more controversial positions, despite needing Democratic support to pass spending legislation.”
Those odds may have ticked up Tuesday night, as President Trump threatened a shutdown if Congress doesn’t approve funding for his promised border wall with Mexico. “If we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall,” the president said during a fiery speech at a campaign-style rally in Phoenix. “One way or the other, we’re going to get that wall.”
Congress must pass a spending bill, and the president must sign it, by September 30 to keep federal agencies running.
Republicans aren’t eager for a shutdown fight. "I don't think anyone is interested in having a shutdown. I don't think it is in our interests to do so," House Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday. And Democrats insist they won’t agree to Trump’s demand for $1.6 billion in funding for a border wall — hey, wasn’t Mexico supposed to be paying for it? — and they may well welcome such a showdown over a continuing resolution (CR) under the assumption that voters will blame Trump and Republicans.
“Democrats will stand fast against the immoral, ineffective border wall and the rest of Republicans’ unacceptable poison pill riders,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement on Wednesday. Pelosi also warned Republicans about the potential effects of not funding the government, noting that the 2013 shutdown cost the economy $24 billion and 120,000 jobs (other estimates from that year put the cost at $12 billion).
Even so, Trump’s threat may be more than just bluster, despite the very real risk of creating yet another rift with congressional leaders from his own party. “Trump has told his advisers he will not accept a deal on other issues without money for the wall ‘and it has to be real money,’” an unnamed senior White House official told Politico.
"A shutdown over the wall plays so well to the president’s base that I find it hard to believe that he will just simply cave and sign a true CR," Steve Bell, a former Senate Budget Committee staff director now with the Bipartisan Policy Center, told Bloomberg. "I believe that a government shutdown seems inevitable."
Trump’s threat likely also complicates the task of raising the debt limit by September 29. GOP leaders might have looked to pair an increase in the nation’s $20 trillion borrowing authority with the must-pass spending legislation. But if Trump were to veto such a bill, the consequences of a debt default would be significantly higher than just a government shutdown, potentially shaking the global economy and markets.
With the stakes so high, the greatest hope may be a scenario laid out by Gina Chon at Reuters Breakingviews: “The discord sown by Trump could bring moderates on both sides of the aisle together to strike a deal capable of surviving a presidential veto.”