Democrats are banding together in refusing to support any short-term spending measure that includes funding for a border wall, a move that could lead to a government shutdown in the near term and the implosion of the legislative filibuster in the U.S. Senate.
In December, the lame duck Congress and President Obama agreed on a spending bill to keep the federal government funded through April. That means lawmakers must pass another continuing resolution next week to keep the government running.
And while fiscal conservatives like FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon expects Republicans to get tough on spending heading into Fiscal 2018, he says this legislation ought to be moved in order to make way for President Trump’s big ticket items.
“I don’t think any Republican is that interested in a shutdown, they’d rather kick the can and move some of these larger priorities,” said Brandon, referring specifically to health care and tax reform.
“You’re going to see the repeal of Obamacare coming back to a vote this week,” said Brandon. “And then next week, I expect we’ll start hearing about fundamental tax reform,” he said.
But there’s a showdown already forming over this short term spending bill over whether to approve funding for construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney says “elections have consequences” and the administration wants that funding in this bill.
Democrats claim Trump’s demand for that funding is a non-starter and is scuttling what they claim was excellent progress on a spending bill. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, R-N.Y., also feigned confusion over the request, noting that Trump repeatedly promised Mexico would pay for the wall.
Brandon says Democrats are refusing to deal, even when Republicans are offering to boost spending on their priorities in exchange for the border security funds.
“Republicans will come to the Democrats with an offer saying, ‘We’ll do this continuing resolution. We’ll even give you some more money for some of your welfare stuff if you give us more money to build the border wall,” said Brandon.
He says if Democrats won’t play ball with an offer like that, this relatively minor spending debate could have major repercussions.
“This little CR debate could end up being one of the most important political debates for the next few years, if not decade, if not longer,” said Brandon. “If Democrats balk at that deal and you start heading toward a shutdown, I wouldn’t be surprised if there would be an overhaul of Senate rules and a change in the parliamentary procedures.”
Yes, Brandon believes the intransigence of Democrats could lead to the obliteration of the legislative filibuster in the Senate. And he says we should know within the next few days whether that option needs to be explored.
“Over this weekend is the test to see whether Democrats will mildly work with the Republicans or if they decide to shut the government down because you have eight or nine Democrats who can’t vote for a short, short continuing resolution. That sends the signal that politics has changed. If Republicans are going to move their legislative agenda, you might see a change in Senate rules,” said Brandon.
While Democrats and some in the media might paint Trump and Republicans at fault for an impasse on the spending bill, Brandon says the GOP approach to this standoff proves which party really refuses to budge.
“I’m the one who’s been told, as a conservative Republican I’m the one who won’t deal. What I think is going to come out here is that Democrats decide, ‘We’re not going to deal.’ That means either that you’re going to have government that is absolutely paralyzed or you’re going to have to change some things so you can start moving some legislation,” said Brandon.
Brandon appears to welcome the idea, noting that if Democrats want to obstruct on a relatively minor issue, forcing the GOP to kill the filibuster would grease the skids for aggressive action on health care and tax reform. He says drawing the line over one of Trump’s top campaign promises makes sense and could trigger wins for conservatives on major issues.
“Republicans need to do something on immigration and the border. They’ve been screaming about it for so long, it has to get done. They’ve been saying we’re going to do something on fundamental tax reform. It has to get done. You’ve got to grow the economy. Finally, we been promising the American people for seven years we’re going to repeal Obamacare,” said Brandon.
“If you get all of those things done, this Trump presidency has been a success in the early part,” he added
Brandon says getting those things done is also key to the GOP having midterm success next year.
“Democrats will try to make the 2018 election based on a referendum on Trump. I’d like to make the 2018 election a referendum on three or four percent economic growth,” said Brandon.
But while Brandon says the big ticket items are more important than fights over short-term spending provisions, he expects a robust Republican effort to rein in spending when it comes time to fund the government for Fiscal Year 2018.
“We’re $20 trillion debt. It;s time to get that under control. The way to do that is to hold the line. You don’t add new spending and at the same time you grow the economy. If you have two or three years of three and four percent growth, almost every one of our problems gets better,” said Brandon.