No one — and I mean NO ONE — knows or cares more about the federal budget than Stan Collender. (Stan’s Twitter handle is @thebudgetguy. I rest my case.) With a week left before the federal government is set to run out of money and shut down, I reached out to Stan for some perspective. How likely are we to see a(nother) government shutdown? Where are the pressure points? And, most importantly, who will blink first? Our conversation, conducted via email and lightly edited for flow, is below.
Cillizza: Let’s start with the most important question: What are the odds that no budget deal is reached by next Friday night and the government shuts down for even a day or two?
Collender: These are actually two separate questions. There’s little chance of a deal by next Friday and a strong (as in close to 100%) chance that the current [continuing resolution] will be extended by a week or two. So no shutdown next Friday.
But there is a decent (probably 60%) chance of a shutdown at some point over [Fiscal Year 2017] funding given that Trump will likely get next-to-nothing of what he proposed.
Cillizza: How much did the calculus change when Trump made clear he wants $1.4 billion in funding for the border wall included?
Collender: The question is whether this is typical Trump bluster or a non-negotiable demand. If it’s bluster, then the calculus hasn’t changed a bit. If it’s a non-negotiable demand, the chances of a shutdown increase precipitously. [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell needs Democrats to pass a funding bill and they won’t vote for the wall. Period.
Cillizza: There is some rumor of trying to link a vote on health care with the spending bill. Is there ANY history of that sort of twinning of legislation? And do you think there’s ANY chance it happens?
Collender: Different policies are linked in a single spending bill all the time, but it’s hard to conceive of the health care and spending debates being combined. That would kill both Democratic and Republican support for the spending bill and probably lead directly to a shutdown. Besides … what health care bill?
Cillizza: John McCain has threatened to block any bill that doesn’t include military spending. Is that a real possibility? And, are there any other threats like this that could derail the bill and cause a shutdown?
Collender: McCain’s concerns will be finessed with a promise by the Republican leadership to do a standalone Pentagon supplemental appropriation. And it’s not clear that his vote will be needed anyway if there’s Democratic support. No other GOP poison pills unless the vote is very close. Then they’ll come out of the woodwork.
Cillizza: Finish this sentence: “The government won’t really shut down because __________ will give in.” Now, explain.
Collender: “Trump” will give in. All he will have to do is figure out a way to sign a funding bill that includes none of his requests so it can go in the “win” column. My guess is that Trump will take credit for preventing a government shutdown (unlike Obama, he’ll say) and that the leadership has promised he’ll get everything he wants in 2018, which is only a few months away.