President Donald J. Trump said Tuesday he will own a government shutdown, should it come to pass. In a theatrical meeting with Democratic leaders, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York.
“I am proud to shutdown the government for border security, Chuck, because the people of this country don’t want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country. So I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it. The last time you shut it down, it didn’t work. I will take the mantle of shutting down.”
Pelosi is the speaker designate for the new House that will take office in January. While Schumer is the Democrat’s minority leader in the Senate. Other Senate leaders, including majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, immediately dismissed a shutdown. He told reporters, “I hope that’s not where we end up.”
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, and a Chickasaw citizen, told NBC News that most GOP lawmakers agree with Trump on border security policy but said the party that shuts down government gets the blame. Last time it was the Democrats. "I don't see the advantage of playing this card in reverse," he told NBC News.
And the politics are tricky. The Congress and the president must enacting a funding bill for parts of the government before Dec. 21. Both the House and the Senate are still controlled by the Republicans and the president must sign any budget deal that passes.
Trump has backed away from a funding fight over the border wall -- and this deadline may be his last chance. Democrats will control the House on Jan. 3, 2019. But even then, as Pelosi pointed out Tuesday, the votes are not there in the current Congress.
Another option, one Schumer told the president, is a temporary budget (called a Continuing Resolution) based on last year’s spending. That could act could fund the government for a few days, weeks, or even through the current fiscal year.
Pelosi told the president that even a limited shutdown could hurt the economy. “The Trump shutdown is something that can be avoided, that the American people do not need at this time of economic uncertainty, people losing jobs, the market is in a mood, and the rest,” she told reporters outside of the White House.
Most of federal agencies already have a spending bill in place, including the Department of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. But the remaining budgets that still need congressional action including Homeland Security, and the Interior Department. The Indian Health Service budget is funded through the Interior budget, so that agency would be impacted. Employees would be furloughed and contracts with tribes and health organizations would not be paid on time. The Bureau of Indian Affairs would also be impacted.
The current Continuing Resolution, the one that expires on Dec. 21, also includes a temporary reauthorization for the Violence Against Women Act.
If there is a shutdown some 400,000 employees would be deemed essential and still required to report for work without pay, while another 350,000 would be sent home. Contracts would not be paid until government funding is enacted, and tribes, and other contractors, would have to use their own money to continue operations.
Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter -@TrahantReportsEmail: mtrahant@IndianCountryToday.com