Desperate for a triumph ahead of President Trump’s 100th day in office, the White House is furiously pushing for another attempt at scrapping the nation’s health care law this week, hinting that deep tax cuts are on deck and adding border wall blueprints and a boost to Pentagon spending to the hopper to boot.
Welcome to Trump’s week of magical thinking. On their own, any of these projects can take months of work in Washington. Now the President wants to jam all this into a single week, let alone one in which lawmakers face a Friday deadline to approve a federal spending measure. Failure to find agreement would shut down the government.
The vote will be one of the first consequential moves since Republicans gained control of the House, Senate and White House—and it could indicate to voters that the GOP isn’t capable of governing despite unified control of Washington. Without coordinated action, federal agencies will shut their doors, workers won’t report for duty and vast parts of the government will stop in their tracks. It’s a serious situation—and certainly a more urgent problem than Trump’s goal of ditching President Barack Obama’s health care legacy, slashing tax rates or finding cash for a border wall that, at best, won’t be finished during Trump’s first term in office.
Administration officials spent the weekend ramping up pressure on lawmakers, even as they sent mixed signals about what the President would settle for and what he would insist Congress include in a spending plan. White House chief of staff Reince Priebus told NBC’s Meet the Press that perhaps increased spending for border security could appease Trump’s demand for brick-and-mortar wall funding. “I think we’ll be OK with that,” Priebus said, without much conviction.
Meanwhile, the White House budget chief tried to project calm. “I don’t think anyone foresees or expects or would want a shutdown,” budget director Mick Mulvaney told Fox News Sunday. Yet asked how intractable Trump is on the border funding question, he cautioned: “We don’t know yet.”
And that’s the most unpredictable aspect of this momentous week. Trump prides himself on his deal-making skills. But government isn’t real estate, and there are prescribed ways to fund it. Over the weekend, Trump tried to outline a spending bill in 140-character bursts. For instance: “Eventually, but at a later date so we can get started early,…