On Friday, Jan. 25, President Donald Trump and his counterparts in Congress passed a temporary measure to reopen the government after the longest partial shutdown in modern history, which had been going for 35 days. But the bill wasn't a long-term solution, and now, lawmakers must come up with another bill that the president will sign onto by Feb. 15. Given the tight deadline, many Americans — particularly the 800,000 federal workers affected — might understandably be wondering if there will be another government shutdown in just a few short weeks. The short answer: Trump isn't ruling it out.
In fact, another shutdown is "certainly an option," Trump told The Wall Street Journal in an interview Sunday. The sticking point, yet again, is the president's demand of $5.7 billion for a wall on the southern border, which Democrats have refused to fund. He added that he didn't have much faith in the prospect that the group of 17 lawmakers, tasked with negotiating appropriations from here on out, would be successful in securing a deal before the next deadline.
"I personally think it's less than 50-50, but you have a lot of very good people on that board," Trump said. He also told the publication that he doubted he would accept less than the $5.7 billion in funding. "I have to do it right," he said. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for comment but didn't hear back as of publication.
In passing legislation Friday, Trump and leaders in the House and Senate agreed to a deal that didn't include wall funding but would begin paying federal workers and buy time to negotiate on border security funding for another three weeks, essentially punting the issue into next month. Democrats have expressed a willingness to fund border security generally but have made clear they're not open to paying for a wall; Trump and his Republican surrogates in Congress have insisted on a wall, though their definition of a physical barrier has continued to evolve.
In response to the deal, conservative news and political pundits largely slammed Trump for what they saw as capitulating to Democrats over the issue.
Some, including Fox News' Sean Hannity, defended the president's position by reasoning that although he hadn't walked away with border wall funding yet, he eventually would emerge victorious — if not in dollars, then by declaring a national emergency.
But in his interview with the Journal on Sunday, Trump appeared to walk back on the compromise he'd made on Friday. When asked whether he'd support a bill that allocated less than the $5.7 billion for a wall, he said, "I doubt it;" his answer was the same for a bill that would offer border security funding in exchange for protection for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, known as Dreamers. And in a tweet Sunday night, the president again re-upped his commitment to getting a wall one way or another. The White House did not immediately respond to Elite Daily's questions about whether his renewed demands for the wall funding were in response to the criticism.
A poll conducted Jan. 20-23, prior to Friday's deal, showed that Americans by and large were blaming Trump for the shutdown's prolonged duration, per CNBC. For the last month-plus, stories of the financial hardship of federal workers who were not able to pay their bills flooded the news cycle.
Associates of Trump's administration have been under fire, too, for appearing oblivious to the hardships of federal workers when Lara Trump, the president's daughter-in-law, said the shutdown was "so much bigger than one person," and that their "little bit of pain" was worth it for the country's sake. The Trump Organization never responded to Elite Daily's request for comment on her remarks. She later tweeted a response, saying, "Fake News is alive and well," and "My heart goes out to all of the federal workers affected by the shutdown."
This comment came amid Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross saying he didn't "really quite understand why" the affected employees were resorting to food banks and couldn't simply take out loans to make ends meet. Elite Daily reached out to Ross for comment but didn't receive a response as of publication. Asked whether Trump was willing to subject federal workers to another round of hardships to get what he wants, the White House had not responded to Elite Daily as of publication.
Besides closing down the government again, Trump's other option, as Hannity mentioned, would be to declare a national emergency to circumvent the need for congressional approval. CNN reported Thursday that his administration had already drafted plans to do so, but such a move would likely be challenged in courts.
So it's not clear what might happen come Valentine's Day: will the nation face another government closure, a national emergency, or a deal that all sides can agree on? If the last government shutdown can offer any lesson, it's that a lot can change in a few weeks.