Donald Trump

House Dems' Plan to Reopen the Government Probably Won't Work. Thank Trump.

It all comes down to one man.


Yuri Gripas—Pool via CNP / MEGA / Newscom; Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Newscom

House Democrats have a plan that would end the partial government shutdown soon after the new Congress is seated this week. But it won't matter unless President Donald Trump budges on his demand for $5 billion to start building a wall on the U.S.–Mexico border.

In case you've been asleep for the past few weeks: Trump and congressional Democrats are at an impasse regarding funds for his wall. Trump wants it, but Democrats won't give it to him. As a result, parts of the federal government, including the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security (DHS), shut down when their funding expired on December 21. (Employees deemed "essential" are still going to work, so the "shutdown," as usual, is not actually a full shutdown.)

The Democrats, who will retake control of the House on Thursday, have a plan to reopen the government. According to The Washington Post, the House will vote that day on two spending packages. One of those packages, which actually includes six spending bills, will fund all the federal departments affected by the shutdown, with the exception of the DHS, through September.

The other package funds the DHS, which is where Trump wants the border wall money to go, but only through February 8. And it does not include the $5 billion Trump has demanded, instead allocating $1.3 billion for border security and fencing. One assumes that if Trump were to sign the package into law, negotiations over wall funding would continue for the next month or so.

The proposal has yet to be publicly announced (though The New York Times, Politico, NBC, and USA Today have all reported on its existence). It likely won't receive much support from House Republicans, but the Democrats may be able to get it through the House anyway.

The GOP-controlled Senate already passed similar legislation earlier this month. Unlike House Democrats' current proposal, that spending package would only have funded all affected departments through February 8. But like the proposal now on the table, it did not meet Trump's border-wall demands. It initially looked like Trump would back down and approve the legislation, but he soon changed course and rejected the proposal.

It's unclear if the Senate will pass such a bill again. It really hinges on Trump. "It's simple: The Senate is not going to send something to the president that he won't sign," Don Stewart, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.), tells Politico.

Now, even if Senate Republicans support the House proposal, a Trump veto would make their approval a moot point. As CNBC notes, at least 55 House Republicans and 67 total senators would be needed to override a presidential veto. That seems highly unlikely.

Which means—not to beat a dead horse—that it all comes down to Trump. And while it's impossible to predict what the president will do, don't put money on him folding, or at least not completely. Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney did say last week that "we've moved off of the" $5 billion number "and we hope [Democrats] move up from their" $1.3 billion proposal. But House Democrats' current proposal suggests that they have not, in fact, moved up from $1.3 billion.

That, in turn, means Trump likely won't budge. (For proof, look no further than his most recent tweets.) The Democrats don't seem to have any intention of giving him anything close to $5 billion for the wall. So here we are, back at square one.

And why would Trump fold? His wall might be stupid and pointless, but his conservative base loves it. And after all, it was criticism from that base that made him shift course after the White House appeared ready to give in.

So no, the Democrats' plan to reopen the government probably won't work. And they can thank Trump (and his most ardent supporters) for that.