The government shuts down Friday night at midnight, just days before Christmas, and Republicans not only seem to lack any actual plan to keep the government open, they may not have enough people actually physically in DC right now to pass a vote in either chamber without support from Democrats.
Just days before a deadline to avert a partial government shutdown, President Trump, Democratic leaders and the Republican-controlled Congress are at a stalemate over the president’s treasured border wall. But House Republican leaders are also confronting a more mundane and awkward problem: Their vanquished and retiring members are sick and tired of Washington and don’t want to show up anymore to vote.
Call it the revenge of the lame ducks. Many lawmakers, relegated to cubicles as incoming members take their offices, have been skipping votes in the weeks since House Republicans were swept from power in the midterm elections, and Republican leaders are unsure whether they will ever return.
It is perhaps a fitting end to a Congress that has showcased the untidy politics of the Trump era: Even if the president ultimately embraces a solution that avoids a shutdown, House Republican leaders do not know whether they will have the votes to pass it.
The uncertainty does not end there. With funding for parts of the government like the Department of Homeland Security set to lapse at midnight on Friday, Mr. Trump and top Republicans appear to have no definite plan to keep the doors open. It is clear that as Democrats uniformly oppose the president’s demand for $5 billion for his border wall, any bill that includes that funding cannot pass the Senate, and might face defeat in the House, too.
“That’s me with my hands up in the air,” Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican, told reporters last week, in case there was any confusion about the meaning of the exaggerated shrug he offered when asked how the logjam might be broken. “There is no discernible plan — none that’s been disclosed.”
In the final moments of complete Republican control of government before Democrats assume the House majority in January, Republicans find themselves once again trapped between Mr. Trump’s messaging and their own political reality.
The president’s declaration in the Oval Office last week that he would be happy to take sole responsibility for a shutdown undercut Republican leaders who had hoped to blame Democrats for any unresolved spending impasse — a point that Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, reiterated Sunday morning on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“They just have to have the guts to tell President Trump he’s off on the deep end here,” Mr. Schumer said of Republican leaders, “and all he is going to get with his temper tantrum is a shutdown. He will not get a wall.”
While Mr. Trump insisted that he had the votes to push $5 billion in wall spending through the House, Republican leaders in the chamber are keenly aware that their rank-and-file members are in no mood to return to Washington days before Christmas to battle over his long-unfulfilled signature campaign promise.
Republicans who were beaten by the blue wave last month have no reason to save Trump or to help the party that allowed him to destroy their political careers. They deserved the drubbing for enabling the party of racist bigotry and fearmongering, not to mention criminal activity of course, but it doesn't mean that they're going to be graceful losers as they burn those bridges behind them.
Trump doesn't exactly inspire loyalty, you know. Trump wanted that shutdown, all indications are that he's going to get it.
Parting thought: A shutdown on Friday night would be the capstone on Paul Ryan's reign as Worst House Speaker Ever™, a man so completely inept at the job that he let his members skip town without securing a vote to keep the lights on.