We are watching a four-way game of chicken that could come to a head on Thursday, if the meeting between President Trump and the Democratic and Republican leadership takes place as advertised.
On the left, the Democrats are determined to maintain their unity and future leverage for talks on lifting the funding caps on defense and non-defense spending in order to begin negotiating in earnest on the Omnibus appropriations bill. At the same time, the Leadership is also contending with Members’ demands for passage of the Dream Act, children’s health insurance, Affordable Care Act related proposal to lower premiums and emergency supplemental funding.
On the Right, the Republicans have called the Democrats’ bluff and this week will pass a short term Continuing Resolution (CR), at least in the House, with the hope of pushing Democrats back to the negotiating table. The short-term CR, which includes some relief for CHIP, will expire on December 22 and unless there is an agreement on funding caps and other issues, Congress (and staffers) could be in for a long Christmas and New Year’s break.
In the center and very conflicted are Republican members who come from states where disaster relief is greatly needed, but are asked to support the Republican only CR. On the other side, and just as torn, are the Democratic Senators who are up for re-election in 2018 in states that President Trump carried are being asked to oppose the CR, for now.
And somewhere out there is the Trump Administration, but more precisely President Trump. The President reportedly thinks a potential shutdown could be good for him, but he is also all about making deals.
Having experienced shutdowns and almost shutdowns, resolving the conflict takes over Washington and this is no different. The messaging war is already beginning, but behind the scenes there are frantic efforts to reach an agreement. In that spirit, the game of legislative chicken will peacefully come to an end unless the parties decide there will be no winners. And in that case, we will have no choice but to keep tuning in.