The latest government shutdown was the longest in history, costing the US billions of dollars and placing extreme hardship on hundreds of thousands of Americans, and yet, President Donald Trump is apparently willing to do it all over again if he has to.
In an interview Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation, top Trump advisor Mick Mulvaney was asked if the president was prepared to enter yet another government shutdown in three weeks if his demands for funding on border security are not met by then.
“Yeah, I think he actually is,” Mulvaney, who now serves as Trump’s acting chief of staff, told host Margaret Brennan. “He’s willing to do whatever it takes to secure the border.”
Trump on Friday brought an end to the 35-day shutdown by agreeing to sign a continuing resolution to keep the quarter of the government that was unfunded running through Feb. 15. This gives congressional leaders three weeks to hash out a long-term solution. But if lawmakers and the president run past that deadline without reaching a compromise, it will trigger phase two of the shutdown, which would be a major hit to federal agencies that have already blown through their reserve funds.
Mulvaney said the president would secure the southern border “with or without Congress,” even though congressional leaders have refused to finance Trump’s $5.7 billion border wall.
“He doesn’t want to shut the government down, let’s make that very clear. He doesn’t want to declare a national emergency,” Mulvaney added on CBS.
But in order for the president to get exactly what he wants, his options are extremely narrow at best. As Vox’s Dylan Scott explains, there are four ways the the weeks of political standoffs could come to a resolution:
- The president and congressional leaders agree on a broader immigration-border security deal and federal funding is restored for the year.
- There’s no deal and the government shuts down (again).
- Trump declares a national emergency to get his border wall, and the government stays open.
- Trump caves again and gets nothing, but the government remains running.
With Mulvaney’s comments Sunday comes the added possibility that Trump is willing to move forward with scenario #2 — even if it didn’t work for him the last time around.
More polls show Americans blame Trump for Shutdown 1.0
Trump’s operating with his hands somewhat tied — congressional Democrats continue to have the upper hand in both negotiations and in the public eye.
According to a new poll out Sunday by The Wall Street Journal and NBC, Americans still largely blame the president and the Republican Party for the ill-effects caused by the shutdown: 50 percent of adults surveyed said Trump was responsible; 37 percent said Democrats were to blame.
That might not worry the president too much — as Scott noted last month, government shutdowns have become almost routine in recent years, leading to negligible blowback in for the party deemed responsible. But one more item in that WSJ/NBC poll should at least cause the White House to at least pause. Some 63 percent of Americans say the country is “off on the wrong track” compared to 28 percent who believe we’re “headed in the right direction.” That’s significantly worse for the president than right before the shutdown, when 56 percent of Americans said they were dissatisfied the the direction we were headed down.
Trump ended the latest shutdown considerably worse off — not only did he not get a single thing he wanted, but even his own base thought less of him after the ordeal. While his overall approval rating has held steady, there are signs his most ardent supporters are starting to turn on him. Conservative commentator Ann Coulter certainly did, calling him “the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States” after he reopened the government without getting any wall funding.
Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States.
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) January 25, 2019
The White House insists that Trump did not cave by signing the continuing resolution this week, and he is never one to admit defeat. That left Mulvaney on Sunday downplaying the idea that Trump was out-maneuvered by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The president will “be judged by what happens at the end of this process, not what happened this week,” Mulvaney said.
The White House has several reasons to hope that’s true.