It’s Day 21 of the government shutdown and there is no end in sight. As of today, the shutdown is tied with the 1995-96 shutdown as the longest in history. The leadership of both parties is resolute. Both President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have dug in and refused to compromise from their respective positions. Not everyone is happy among the party rank and file, however.
In the most recent House votes on compromise bills to reopen the government, 12 Republicans joined with House Democrats in voting to fully fund the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (HR 267). Previously, 10 Republicans had voted to fund parts of the government. In Thursday’s vote, they were joined by Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH), the most recent chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL). Stivers and Davis did not join the 10 other Republicans in a separate vote to reopen the Department of Agriculture (HR 265).
The number of disaffected Republicans is growing. On Wednesday’s votes, Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) joined with another eight Republicans who had earlier voted to fund the government. The eight who have consistently voted in favor of funding are Reps. Will Hurd (R-TX), Greg Walden (R-OR), Fred Upton (R-MI), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), John Katko (R-NY) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). Greg Walden was the chairman of the RCCC from 2014 through 2016.
Although both bills passed the House, they will die in the Senate where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to take any action on a bill that Trump would not sign. President Trump has refused to waver on his demand for $5 billion for his wall project, about one-fifth of the estimated total that would be required, and Democrats have offered only $1.3 billion for border security funding that excludes the wall. Pelosi joked with reporters that she would only appropriate one dollar for the wall, adding, “We’re not doing a wall. Does anybody have any doubt about that?”
Despite Pelosi’s show of resolve, some Democrats are wavering as well. Politico reported on Wednesday that some freshman House Democrats were “freaking out” about the shutdown and the party’s strategy. A senior Democratic aide blamed some of the anxiety on the fact that some new congressmen didn’t have their offices and emails set up and were not receiving communications from Speaker Pelosi.
Nevertheless, some are feeling the heat from constituents. “If I am getting comments and contact from my constituents expressing concern that the Democrats are not prioritizing security, then I think we can do better,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.).
Even if some Democrats have misgivings, so far, they have not had the opportunity to break ranks with their party. The only funding bills active are the partial funding bills passed by the House that reopen individual departments of the federal government. The dynamics of the shutdown are that funding bills originate in the Democrat-controlled House. Since McConnell is quashing votes in the Senate, that means that Republicans have more chances to cross the aisle than Democrats.
If McConnell decides to allow the House funding bills to be considered in the Senate, it is highly likely that they would pass easily. The bigger question is whether the Senate would have enough votes to override a probable veto from the president.
As the shutdown stretches on, the effects are starting to pile up like trash in the unstaffed national parks. Federal workers are missing a payday today. That has rippling effects throughout the country as local federal employees may be unable to pay their bills and about $2.2 billion in consumer spending is withheld from the economy. Even the Coast Guard and air traffic controllers are affected. Some services, such as the ability to obtain passports from the State Department are already closed and, if the shutdown stretches on others, such as tax refunds, may be delayed.
The shutdown will continue until one side blinks. So far, neither President Trump nor Speaker Pelosi has given any indication of budging from their positions. The compromise to end the shutdown will have to come from members of Congress who feel the pressure from their constituents. Pelosi’s San Francisco seat is safe, but many other congressmen and senators represent swing districts and states. They will be ready to make a deal and, because Republicans are more vulnerable after the last midterms, the odds are that it will not include a wall.
At this point, Mitch McConnell is the key. If McConnell stays strong and protects the president then the shutdown could last indefinitely. However, polling already shows that voters blame Trump for the shutdown and oppose both the shutdown tactic and the wall. If and when McConnell determines that Trump’s shutdown is endangering the Republican majority in the Senate, he could easily allow a vote and put Trump in the position of having to veto funding without a wall or backing down.