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Trump’s Greatest Political Challenge May Pivot on Government Shutdown

Editor’s note: Check out the wildly successful GoFundMe that might just get the wall built.

The fight over a possible government shutdown is coming down to the wire and, because that fight hinges on funding for a southern border wall, President Donald Trump faces his most politically consequential challenge to date. A continuing resolution (CR) that provides funding for the government through February 8, 2019, was passed by voice vote in the Senate Wednesday, December 19. The bill goes to the House of Representatives for final passage, and the president must sign it before midnight on December 21 to avoid a shutdown. Whether or not he does so will have significant repercussions that will resonate all the way to November 2020. [perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=”24″]…that fact likely riles Democrats more than any fight over spending or immigration policy.[/perfectpullquote]

It seems that Congress often manages to bring the federal government to the brink of shutdown over spending. Democrats and Republicans view such an eventuality as both a threat and a weapon, depending on which side can be blamed for it. Trump scored a psychological victory when he told the Democratic leaders, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), that he would be proud to shut the government down over funding for his long-promised border wall. The president’s biggest challenge now is whether he will follow through on that statement or sign the CR and anger his supporters, who will see that as a capitulation to Democrats.

What’s at Stake?

To be clear, government shutdowns have only short-term political consequences, and this one, if it happens, would just be a partial suspension of government operations. Of the 12 annual appropriations bills that collectively fund the government, seven have already been signed. One of the president’s signature campaign promises is now front and center in the fight over the remaining funding.

Trump has $1.6 billion for the wall he promised his base, and Democrats do not want to give him the remainder of the initial $5 billion he has demanded. Their refusal to fund the wall really has less to do with their apparent desire to facilitate massive illegal immigration and more to do with denying the president his legacy and forcing him to go into the 2020 election campaign without it.

If the wall does get built, it will stand as a monument to the Trump presidency, and that fact likely riles Democrats more than any fight over spending or immigration policy.

As the nation waits to see what will happen in the House, the Freedom Caucus, the GOP’s most conservative faction, is urging the president to stand fast and promising to back him up. On the House floor Wednesday – the day the Senate approved the CR – caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) took a stand along with several of his colleagues. “Mr. President, we’re going to back you up if you veto this,” Meadows said. “If you veto this bill, we’ll be there. More importantly, the American people will be there. They’ll be there to support you.”

With Democrats poised to take over the House, it is clear to both the president and congressional Republicans that this fight represents the last chance for border wall funding to be approved – at least until 2021. “Now [The House is] talking about kicking it to Feb. 8,” a clearly rattled Jim Jordon (R-OH) said Wednesday. “You got to be kidding me. February 8th? When Nancy Pelosi is Speaker?”

Trump’s base appears on the brink of a meltdown over the prospect that he may back down from his threat. In reality, he has little to lose by vetoing the stopgap spending bill, but he risks much if he signs it. Signing this continuation will cost Trump dearly unless he quickly comes up with an alternative way to get the border wall funded. Any such effort would be firmly resisted by a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. Were he to veto the CR and jet off to his Florida estate, leaving the government to partially shut down, he will be hailed as a hero by his supporters, while more timid Republicans will quake and whimper, fearing the accusatory fingers of Democrats.

What, then, will Trump do, assuming the CR gets through the House? Are we looking at “The Great Trumpdown of 2019” or will Democrats, once again, give America the finger and wait for their demands to be met?

Read More From Graham J Noble

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