Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Saturday 28 January 2023 Dublin: 6°C
# Explainer
Could a row over Trump's wall cause a government shutdown? How likely is it?
A senior Democrat thinks the President has thrown a “monkey wrench” into talks. What happens next?

THERE’S BEEN SPECULATION in the US media that a row over funding for President Donald Trump’s mooted border wall could lead to a government shutdown.

So how likely is it?

And what exactly happens in a shutdown situation?

What’s the row about?

Comments on one of the Sunday morning shows from one of Trump’s top officials did little to temper talk of a possible shutdown, as the President himself weighed into the debate about funding for one of his signature campaign promises, on Twitter.

The White House appears determined to get Congress to approve a downpayment on the border wall as part of a bigger bill to keep the US government funded.

Trump insisted Mexico would pay for the wall “but at a later date so we can get started early”.

“The Democrats don’t want money from budget going to border wall despite the fact that it will stop drugs and very bad MS 13 gang members,” he wrote.


The President’s budget chief Mick Mulvaney said the administration was prepared to make concessions to Democrats on healthcare reform in order to get the wall money.

Asked whether Trump would veto the larger spending bill, risking a shutdown on his 100th day in office, if the wall wasn’t funded, Mulvaney told Fox News Sunday:

Don’t know yet. [...] We are asking for our priorities and importantly we are offering to give Democrats some of their priorities as well.

A budget deal will need both Democratic support and approval from Trump in order to pass – but as yet it’s not clear how far the White House is willing to push the issue of the wall.

What are Democrats and Republicans saying?

Trump’s tweet about Mexico paying for the wall “at a later date” essentially means taxpayers would foot the bill up front. Democrats aren’t keen to compromise with the White House on the project.

“I hope the president will back off,” Senator Dick Durbin, the number-two Democrat in the Senate told CNN at the weekend.

To think that he would consider shutting down the government of the United States of America over this outlandish proposal of a border wall, which we can’t even pay for at this point, and is opposed by Democrats and Republicans all along the border, that would be the height of irresponsibility.

Mulvaney, the White House budget chief, insisted that a shutdown was ”not desired and it’s not a tool, it’s not something we want to have”.

We want our priorities funded and one of the biggest priorities during the campaign was border security, keeping Americans safe and part of that was a border wall.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly meanwhile told CBS “it’s certainly worth hard negotiation over”.

We have tremendous threats, whether it’s drugs, people, potential terrorists, coming up from the south.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer SIPA USA / PA Images Chuck Schumer SIPA USA / PA Images / PA Images

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer meanwhile said Trump had thrown “a monkey wrench” into talks with his insistence that the measures include start-up money for the wall.

“This wall is un-thought-out and doesn’t work,” the Democrat said, insisting Trump’s attitude can’t be “my way or the highway”.

What happens in a shutdown?

The spectre of a government shutdown often looms over US budget negotiations.

The threat has most often been averted – but has come to pass several times, most recently for 16 days in 2013 amid a dispute over funding for Obamacare.

As there was effectively no money allocated to pay people who work for government departments and agencies, around 700,000 federal workers – people who work for government departments and agencies – were sent home without pay in 2013. In the US they call this a furlough.

All sorts of other things close down during a government shutdown too – including museums, national parks, and zoos. The White House operates with a skeletal staff.

There have been over a dozen federal government shutdowns in the last 40 years or so – of varying lengths. The 2013 dispute ended after Republicans conceded defeat and the House and Senate passed legislation to end the shutdown and extend borrowing power. The US Capitol Twitter account during the 2013 shutdown.

So how likely is it?

The White House is planning a series of events this week in the run up to the symbolic ’100 days’ mark on Saturday – and Trump is scheduled to host a rally in Pennsylvania on the day itself.

He’s promised a big announcement on tax reform tomorrow, and is planning to sign more executive orders and host high-level meetings. Top aides will also fan out around the country to promote the administration.

It’s unlikely the White House will want the blame for a government shutdown laid at its door this week, of all weeks, in other words.

According to the New York Times:

In 2013, at a time of peak conservative fury at Mr. Obama, some Republicans did not seem to mind positioning themselves as faces of the shutdown, which supplied a soapbox for ambitious hard-liners like Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.
This time, at least so far, no one seems to want any fingerprints on an impasse.

Donald Trump - Daily Business DPA / PA Images DPA / PA Images / PA Images

It appears likely both sides will play for time – passing a temporary spending bill that would keep the government running while work continues on a bigger deal.

A GOP congressional aide told Vox that the odds of a shutdown were between 5% and 15%.

In his weekend interview, meanwhile, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus indicated that a move on ‘border security’ rather than funding for a border wall may be acceptable.

“We expect the priorities of the president to be reflected,” in the talks, he told NBC’s Meet the Press.

It will be enough in the negotiation for us to move forward with either the construction or the planning, or enough for us to move forward through the end of September to get going on the border wall and border security.

- Includes reporting from AFP and Associated Press  

Read: Bernie Sanders is coming to Dublin >

Read: Where did all the fuss about a US president’s first 100 days come from? >


This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel