The House wrapped up early Thursday and is not scheduled to return until next Wednesday at the earliest. House members left without any indication of what they would be doing this week when funding expires for seven appropriations bills.
The President met with likely-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) on Tuesday. Nothing resulted from what started out, by the President’s insistence, as a very public and heated discussion about his demand to have $5 billion for his campaign pledge to build a wall on the Mexican border. Democrats have made clear they will not fund that and are not willing to go beyond the current proposed $1.6 billion in border security.
After the public display the conversation continued behind closed doors. Later Pelosi had a phone conversation with the President. There are any number of scenarios that could play out:
• A partial government shutdown including the Justice Department and Homeland Security. Essential government employees would continue to work without a paycheck and that includes all TSA officials working lengthy hours to monitor airport security during the holidays.
• A deal offered by Democrats to enact the already agreed to funding levels for six of the appropriations with a continuing resolution for Homeland Security.
• Another CR that could go until after Christmas or New Year’s Day
• Punting the entire issue into the new 116th Congress by extending the CR through January 3, 2019.
None of those scenario’s is favorable to the President’s desire to get $5 billion in wall funding but he may not have a choice. It is unclear whether House Republicans can pass a bill with $5 billion for the wall because there have been significant shortages of Republican members attending the lame-duck session. Despite Pelosi’s directive to the President that the House can’t get the votes for the $5 billion and the desire on the part of some House Republicans to take up that challenge, there are no plans to take that vote.
There have been some hints over the weekend that the Administration will seek a CR into the next Congress. The logic is that Mr. Trump could have his political fight with the new House Democratic Majority. With the absence of Republican members in attendance that will not get any easier as members holiday plans kick in. As far as holiday plans it is unclear how the President will handle his own holiday plans since he is currently is scheduled to be in Mar-A-Lago for a 16-day vacation starting on December 21. Taking that vacation during a shutdown would open the President up to serious criticism.
If the issue carries over into the new Congress, House Democrats would likely make one of their first actions the passage of an appropriations that is like what appropriators have already agreed to with the $1.6 billion for security. That would put the burden on Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) to act on the bill and move on to issues he’d rather be debating. It could open opportunities for the new Majority to attach unrelated items such as a fix to the new court ruling on the ACA