Trump’s bor­der threats could make for ugly Septem­ber

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - COMMENTARY - — St. Louis Post-Dis­patch

Septem­ber al­ready was shap­ing up to be a har­row­ing month in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

But Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s threat last Tues­day to close down the govern­ment if Congress fails to fund his bor­der wall makes it a po­ten­tial night­mare.

Congress, on re­cess un­til Sept. 5, must raise the U.S. debt ceil­ing be­fore Sept. 29. By the start of the new fis­cal year Oct. 1, Congress also must ei­ther pass a bud­get (un­likely) or a tem­po­rary spend­ing mea­sure to keep the govern­ment op­er­at­ing into the new fis­cal year.

Then there’s the leftover mat­ter of re­plac­ing or fix­ing the Af­ford­able Care Act, on which Trump and some mem­bers of Congress still haven’t given up. To top it off, GOP lead­ers hope to be­gin talks about a tax-cut pack­age that hasn’t been fi­nal­ized.

Now the pres­i­dent says un­less there’s fund­ing for the bor­der wall in what­ever bud­get mea­sure Congress passes, he won’t sign it.

The shut­down would be­gin Mon­day, Oct. 2.

There have been 18 “fund­ing gaps,” as Congress calls them, since the mod­ern bud­get­ing process be­gan in 1976. Most of them were for two or three days; month­long shut­downs in 1996 and 2013 saw up to 800,000 fed­eral em­ploy­ees fur­loughed, closed na­tional parks and mu­se­ums and de­layed pay­ments of some mil­i­tary and veterans ben­e­fits. The public was not happy. Trump is bet­ting there’s enough pop­u­lar sup­port for the bor­der wall that he won’t be blamed for a shut­down if it oc­curs.

A friendly crowd in Phoenix last Tues­day cheered when he said, “Build that wall,” adding, “Now the ob­struc­tion­ist Democrats would like us not to do it. But be­lieve me, if we have to close down our govern­ment, we’re build­ing that wall.”

But out­side of Trump ral­lies, polls show sig­nif­i­cant ma­jori­ties of Amer­i­cans op­pose spend­ing money on a bor­der wall. Mex­i­can of­fi­cials, in no un­cer­tain terms, re­jected Trump’s ab­surd de­mand that Mex­ico pay for it.

The im­me­di­ate is­sue is $1.6 bil­lion in bor­der wall fund­ing House lead­ers sneaked into their ver­sion of a Pen­tagon spend­ing bill in July.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., with whom Trump is feud­ing, won’t com­mit to in­clud­ing that $1.6 bil­lion in the Se­nate ver­sion. If McCon­nell can hold all 52 GOP sen­a­tors — in­clud­ing oth­ers with whom Trump is feud­ing — he’ll still needs at least eight Demo­crat votes for the bill to pass.

The larger is­sue is Trump’s govern­ment-by-bom­bast ap­proach to leg­isla­tive process. The McClatchy news ser­vice re­ports that the White House could use the 800,000 “dream­ers” — young adult and teen im­mi­grants brought to the United States il­le­gally as chil­dren — as hostages. If Democrats don’t give Trump what he wants for bor­der se­cu­rity, the dream­ers will be rounded up and sent pack­ing.

August hasn’t ex­actly been a pic­nic, but Septem­ber could get re­ally ugly.

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