Trump Just Threw Congress' Deal to Avoid a Shutdown Into Total Chaos

Photo: J. Scott Applewhite (AP)

After Democrats and Republicans announced they had come to an agreement on a last-minute continuing resolution to fund the federal government through February 8, it appeared as if they’d headed off—or at least delayed—the government shutdown that everyone had been so freaked out about just a few days earlier. Whew, crisis averted!

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Not so fast. In what is truly an example of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, President Donald Trump has thrown the carefully calibrated final budget compromise into total disarray by signaling that he still might not sign any continuing resolution that doesn’t include at least $5 billion for his precious wall between the United States and Mexico. Also, the wall is actually a bunch of “steel slats.” But it’s still definitely a “(Wall).” Got it? Good.

As if to punctuate his point that he’s still very much in the air about what was essentially a done deal just one day earlier, the president pulled outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan out of a meeting on Thursday to vent his spleen at him for half an hour. Hardly the sort of thing you’d do if you were going to ultimately sign the damn thing.

This poses a problem, since both chambers of Congress were essentially ready to pass the continuing resolution, call it a day, and head home to their families/donors for the holidays. In fact, plenty of House Republicans are already skipping votes since they’re lame ducks with a bad case of senioritis. Which means that there’s no guarantee that Trump could get the votes he wants for his last-minute wall temper tantrum, even if he’s serious about vetoing the bill.

And so we’re back to this: A potential government shutdown that could have been avoided but might not be due to the whims of a man who doesn’t even pretend to care about leading a functioning government. Which puts rank and file Republicans in an awkward spot as they wait for any kind of signal—and let’s be honest, it’ll probably be a tweet—from Trump as to what to actually do.

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“The president is having a meeting with Republican House Members at noon today,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement on Thursday, as the budget negotiation was actively imploding. “At this moment, the president does not want to go further without border security, which includes steel slats or a wall. The president is continuing to weigh his options.”

“That’s what the fuck serving in Congress has come to,” one anonymous House member told NBC News’ Kasie Hunt during this last-minute scramble to figure out what the hell is actually going on.

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Sounds like everyone is having a great time.

Update, 1:42 p.m.: After a last-minute meeting with House Republican leadership, Trump confirmed his plan to screw everything up by refusing to sign any continuing resolution that does not contain funding for the border wall. In a hastily released statement shortly after their meeting, the White House blamed Democrats as “unwilling to protect our nation” for any upcoming shutdown.

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Last week, Trump said on live television, during an Oval Office conversation with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, that he would “be the one to shut it down.” Guess he wasn’t kidding.

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Rafi Schwartz

Senior writer. When in doubt he'll have the soup.