Trump team down­plays risk of shut­down

Con­tin­gency plans ‘rou­tine’

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY S.A. MILLER AND TOM HOW­ELL JR.

Pres­i­dent Trump and his bud­get team are voic­ing con­fi­dence that a gov­ern­ment shut­down will be averted be­fore Fri­day’s dead­line, even as they me­thod­i­cally go through an Obama-era check­list of prepa­ra­tions for shut­ter­ing depart­ments and agen­cies just in case Congress can’t agree on a spend­ing bill in time.

The White House Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get late last week gave guid­ance to depart­ment heads to stick to con­tin­gency plans, most of which were drafted in 2015, with some up­dated as re­cently as De­cem­ber.

Mr. Trump de­scribed the steps as rou­tine and down­played the risk of a shut­down.

“I think we’re in good shape,” he said Fri­day.

OMB Di­rec­tor Mick Mul­vaney echoed that con­fi­dence.

“While we do not ex­pect a lapse, pru­dence and com­mon sense re­quire rou­tine as­sess­ments to be made,” he said last week, as his team be­gan run­ning through the shut­down pro­to­cols.

Mr. Mul­vaney said the na­tion will be de­fended, So­cial Se­cu­rity checks will be is­sued and Medi­care will still be funded even if nonessen­tial ser­vices shut down.

“But again,” he told “Fox News Sun­day,” “I don’t think any­body fore­sees or ex­pects or wants a shut­down.”

Un­der­scor­ing the rou­tine na­ture of the prepa­ra­tions, of­fi­cials noted that pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions took sim­i­lar steps when they faced shut­down dead­lines in 2013, 2015 and twice in 2016.

Agen­cies are re­quired to de­velop and main­tain plans for a gov­ern­ment shut­down. The plans are up­dated ev­ery two years, and re­vi­sions are due this year.

The last com­pre­hen­sive re­view was per­formed in Au­gust 2015. In Septem­ber and

De­cem­ber, when the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion last ran through the shut­down pro­to­cols, agen­cies re­viewed and up­dated the plans.

Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials said they don’t ex­pect ma­jor changes, but it’s un­clear whether a plan would be im­ple­mented dif­fer­ently from the one used in 2013, when Pres­i­dent Obama and his ad­min­is­tra­tion were ac­cused of mak­ing the shut­down as painful as possible on cit­i­zens to gain lever­age in a bud­get bat­tle with Repub­li­cans over Oba­macare.

Mr. Obama’s shut­down moves that pro­voked com­plaints in­cluded erect­ing bar­ri­cades to keep vis­i­tors out of the out­door World War II Me­mo­rial and the Viet­nam War Me­mo­rial on the Mall in Washington.

The Na­tional Park Ser­vice re­fused to an­swer ques­tions about how it would pro­ceed in the event of a shut­down this week.

Oba­macare fund­ing again is a stick­ing point in the spend­ing stand­off with Democrats in Congress, al­though Repub­li­cans this time con­trol the House, the Se­nate and the White House.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has in­sisted that any fund­ing plan in­clude money to pay for a wall on the south­ern bor­der, one of the pres­i­dent’s most prom­i­nent cam­paign prom­ises. Democrats say such fund­ing amounts to a “poi­son pill” that could de­rail a bill to keep the gov­ern­ment open for the re­main­der of the fis­cal year, which ends Sept. 30.

House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat said Sun­day on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the pres­i­dent told vot­ers that Mex­ico would pay for the wall. Yet Mr. Trump said he needs an ad­vance from Un­cle Sam.

“Even­tu­ally, but at a later date so we can get started early, Mex­ico will be pay­ing, in some form, for the badly needed bor­der wall. The Democrats don’t want money from bud­get go­ing to bor­der wall de­spite the fact that it will stop drugs and very bad MS 13 gang mem­bers,” Mr. Trump said Sun­day in a se­ries of Twit­ter mes­sages, re­fer­ring to a no­to­ri­ously vi­o­lent gang with roots in Cen­tral Amer­ica.

The is­sue ex­posed some day­light be­tween Mr. Trump and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wis­con­sin Repub­li­can, who pre­vi­ously said the fund­ing for a bor­der wall could be put off un­til bud­get bills are ap­proved for the next fis­cal year, which be­gins Oct. 1.

Ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween House and Se­nate ap­pro­pri­a­tors have con­tin­ued dur­ing Congress’ spring break.

The stand­off over Oba­macare cen­ters on crit­i­cal “cost shar­ing” pay­ments to in­sur­ers. Mr. Trump has threat­ened to end the pay­ments, which would put the health care law into a death spi­ral un­less Democrats agree to ne­go­ti­ate ma­jor re­forms to the act.

“Oba­maCare is in se­ri­ous trou­ble. The Dems need big money to keep it go­ing — oth­er­wise it dies far sooner than any­one would have thought,” Mr. Trump said Sun­day on Twit­ter.

The pay­ments, which to­taled about $7 bil­lion last year, are cru­cial to the sur­vival of Mr. Obama’s name­sake health care law. With­out fed­eral help to off­set the cost of cov­er­ing low-in­come pa­tients, in­sur­ance com­pa­nies likely would drop out of Oba­macare or raise pre­mi­ums across the board.

A fed­eral court in­val­i­dated the pay­ments, say­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion spent the money even though Congress specif­i­cally stripped the funds from its an­nual spend­ing bills. De­spite the rul­ing, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion con­tin­ued to dis­trib­ute funds while the case was ap­pealed.

If Congress con­tin­ues that fund­ing in the new spend­ing bill, it likely would spell vic­tory for the ap­peal by Oba­macare sup­port­ers, re­mov­ing the un­der­pin­ning of the orig­i­nal rul­ing.

The is­sue gained promi­nence af­ter House Repub­li­cans failed to pass a bill to re­peal and re­place Oba­macare, a top cam­paign prom­ise for Mr. Trump and Repub­li­can law­mak­ers.

Mr. Mul­vaney has of­fered Democrats $1 in Oba­macare pay­ments for ev­ery dol­lar Mr. Trump gets for his bor­der wall.

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Demo­crat, balked.

“The U.S. gov­ern­ment is sup­posed to take care of its cit­i­zens and, ac­cord­ing to the pres­i­dent, Mex­ico is sup­posed to pay for the wall,” Schumer spokesman Matt House said. “If the ad­min­is­tra­tion would drop their eleventh-hour de­mand for a wall that Democrats, and a good num­ber of Repub­li­cans op­pose, con­gres­sional lead­ers could quickly reach a deal.” Mr. Mul­vaney said elec­tions have con­se­quences. “We want our pri­or­i­ties funded, and one of the big­gest pri­or­i­ties dur­ing the cam­paign was bor­der se­cu­rity — keep­ing Amer­i­cans safe — and part of that was a bor­der wall,” he said.

The spend­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions also put in jeop­ardy sev­eral other of Mr. Trump’s cam­paign prom­ises, in­clud­ing slash­ing do­mes­tic spend­ing, boost­ing mil­i­tary bud­gets, de­fund­ing Planned Par­ent­hood and pu­n­ish­ing sanc­tu­ary cities.

Congress could push back the dead­line with a short-term fund­ing bill, giv­ing law­mak­ers a week or two to iron out any dif­fer­ences. The Pen­tagon has warned against a short-term mea­sure that could de­lay new pro­grams and re­duce bud­get flex­i­bil­ity needed for fight­ing wars.

“The Repub­li­cans have the votes in the House and the Se­nate and the White House to keep gov­ern­ment open,” Mrs. Pelosi said. “The bur­den to keep it open is on the Repub­li­cans.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

AS­SUR­ANCE: White House Bud­get Di­rec­tor Mick Mul­vaney said that in the case of a shut­down, the na­tion will be de­fended, So­cial Se­cu­rity checks will be is­sued and Medi­care will still be funded.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get Di­rec­tor Mick Mul­vaney said he doesn’t fore­see a shut­down.

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