Budget

With 2017 funding in place, September shutdown looms

question mark made of dollar 

The House of Representatives is set to vote May 3 on a bipartisan funding bill to keep the government open through the end of fiscal year 2017.

That bill is expected to pass easily and be signed into law by President Donald Trump.

However, a victory lap by congressional Democrats, touting the defeat of Trump administration requests for supplemental funding for a border wall with Mexico and sudden, drastic cuts to some civilian-side agencies, may have triggered the president into threatening a future shutdown.

In a May 2 tweet, Trump complained about the Senate rules that made a compromise with Democrats a matter of legislative necessity, saying, "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!"

What does a good shutdown look like?

Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, took a stab at the question in a May 2 briefing.

"If you want to imagine what a good shutdown was, it would be one that fixes this town, one that drives the message back home to people that it really was as broken as they thought it was when they voted for Donald Trump," Mulvaney said.

While he agreed that furloughing almost a million federal workers would put employee pay in limbo -- as happened in the 2013 shutdown -- Mulvaney did not sound too worried about the prospects of feds going without paychecks.

"Every single one of those folks got paid [in 2013]" Mulvaney said. "It's not desirable [but] a good one would be one that fixes Washington, D.C., permanent."

Senate Democrats called for unity in the wake of the shutdown tweet from Trump.

"The threat to shut down in September is just a very bad idea," Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in the afternoon on May 2. "That is not the way to govern, that is not the way to come up with bipartisan compromise, that is not the way to run America."

In remarks on the Senate floor May 3, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tried to focus attention on the policy and funding concessions Republicans came away with in the negotiations.

An increase in defense funding and more money for border infrastructure including surveillance technology are among the "notable wins" for Republican priorities cited by McConnell. The majority leader also thanked Trump and his team for "their efforts in working with the Republican Congress to address many important needs for our country in this bill."

Schumer, however, said Trump was not an asset in the funding deal. "Unfortunately, the president did not play much of a positive role in these budget negotiations," he said.

The administration's 2018 budget request, expected to be released soon, will contain a full accounting of Trump's policy priorities -- from double-digit cuts at the Environmental Protection Agency and the State Department, to billions in funding for the planned border wall with Mexico, to closing 19 federal agencies, to a large increase in defense spending.

"When the fiscal year starts the end of September, we will have an opportunity to really infuse the president's priorities," said Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, at his May 1 briefing.

However, some of these issues were the very sticking points in the 2017 budget negotiations, and it's hard to see Democrats relinquishing their objections just as the 2018 midterm elections get into swing. So the shutdown threat from Trump may be more than just frustration; it may indicate his willingness to go to the mat to obtain the goals laid out in his budget blueprint.

Mulvaney said that a shutdown is "not a goal" and "not a negotiating tool," but clearly the threat is on the table in the not-too-distant future.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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