By midnight on April 28—this Friday—the US government needs to get its funding in order, or shut down. Non-essential services will be suspended until Congress reaches a consensus on a spending bill to keep things running.
Normally, when one party controls all the levers of power in Washington, as the Republicans do now, it should have no problem getting a spending bill passed. But with the Republicans split over some of Trump’s more profligate spending plans, and Democrats reluctant to give him any political victories on the eve of his first 100 days in office, a stand-off seems likely.
There are two things Republican negotiators in the executive branch say give them leverage. But a careful look at both suggests that forcing a shutdown over either issue will be a volatile gamble—something that could blow up in the Republican camp while causing little pain to the Democrats.
1. Build the wall!
The White House is asking for at least a symbolic sum to be earmarked for the border wall with Mexico, a project that is estimated to cost at least $22 billion.
At a time of budget stagnation, and with undocumented immigration already falling, not many lawmakers are eager to throw that cash at something that few experts think would be a cost-effective deterrent. A survey of border-state lawmakers (paywall) by the Wall Street Journal suggested support is lukewarm at best among the people who would be directly affected, and doesn’t poll well.
For Democrats, defeating the wall has become symbolically potent. They also see Trump’s essential untrustworthiness reflected in the fact that, after spending months promising…
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