As the Congress returns to work in Washington, D.C. after a two week break, lawmakers in both parties face a series of unsettled political battlegrounds, one of which could bring about a government shutdown by the end of the week, as President Trump and Republican leaders in the Congress grapple with the budget, money for their priorities, and unanswered questions on major issues like health reform.
Here’s a snapshot as we begin the week in the nation’s capital.
1. Will the government shutdown on Friday night? That will be the biggest question as lawmakers return to legislative work sessions in the House and Senate this week. A temporary budget plan runs out at midnight on Friday April 28, and the Congress can either enact a short term extension, come to a deal on funding through the end of September (the end of the fiscal year), or get locked in a partisan struggle and do nothing, which would mean a shutdown. Negotiations have been going on for weeks, with flash points over funding for a border wall, money for the Obama health law, a bigger budget for the military and more. One thing to note – a number of Republicans would rather avoid a shutdown in the short term.
2. One big conflict – money for the border wall. During the campaign, President Donald Trump would get a huge response from his crowds by asking who would pay for a wall along the southern U.S. border. “Mexico!” was the deafening response. But that’s not the way it’s going to work out, as Mr. Trump needs money from Congress to start construction work on the wall. Democrats have made clear they’re not interested in helping in this plan to finish the budget for 2017. Why does the President need the support of Democrats? Because there are expected to be Republicans who won’t vote for a government funding measure for a variety of reasons.
3. Republicans still struggling for health care deal. Over the break, the White House and GOP kept making noise about edging their way closer to a deal on a health care overhaul bill, something that President Trump and GOP leaders made a central promise in the 2016 campaign. But while there have been long distance discussions, there still is a lot of room between more moderate Republicans and more conservative members of the Freedom Caucus on the issue. Mr. Trump last week made clear that he would like to see action this week in the House, but that seems unlikely, as other matters are certainly higher up on the agenda at this point.
4. Trump ready to unveil basics of tax reform plan. As if a government shutdown threat, the fight over money for the border wall, and the maneuvering over the health care deal isn’t enough, President Trump may add tax reform to the Legislative Stew this week as well. Mr. Trump said on Friday that he would be announcing his tax reform plan on Wednesday – a declaration that reports indicated caught his staff somewhat by surprise. It’s not expected that the White House will be sending a complete plan to the Congress with all the legislative text, but rather just the bullet points of what they want. As for Democrats, they say they will not give any votes to the GOP on tax reform, until they see the President’s tax returns – saying they want to know how any tax changes would impact Mr. Trump’s personal bottom line.
5. This week takes us through the first 100 days of Trump. The idea of judging a President by the first hundred days in office has always struck me as sort of arbitrary. You highlight your successes, puff up what you haven’t yet achieved, and try to paper over your false starts. President Trump has been grumbling of late about the whole concept, but his campaign certainly was more than happy to make big pledges for his first 100 days in office. In an interview with the Associated Press last week, Mr. Trump was asked if he should be “held accountable” to that 100-day plan. “Somebody, yeah, somebody put out the concept of a hundred day plan. But yeah. Well, I’m mostly there on most items,” he answered. If you look at the graphic below – produced by the Trump Campaign, and tweeted out by the candidate in October 2016, you will see ten items all ending in “Act” – as in, a law passed by the Congress. None of those things have made it into law as yet. April 29 marks 100 days.
It is possible that President Trump will mark his 100th day in office with a government shutdown. We’ll see if that happens.
The Senate is back on Monday. The House returns on Tuesday. Friday is the funding deadline.