The Slatest

Trump Threatens to Veto Congress’ Giant Spending Bill. Is He Serious?

President Trump, thinking about just goin' for it.
President Trump, thinking about just goin’ for it. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Update, 2 p.m.: He signed it.

After much “begging, pleading, and cajoling” from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday afternoon and into the late evening, the Senate was able to follow the House’s example and pass the 2,232-page, $1.3 trillion government-funding bill one day after it was made publicly available. Members and senators could get, are getting, and have gotten out of town for the two-week recess, squired far away in their home districts and states, hundreds or thousands of miles from the March for Our Lives descending on the Washington this weekend.

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This morning, however, a fatal technical glitch was discovered in the process. The issue, according to Beltway insiders and sources familiar, is called “President Donald Trump.”

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The president went through an episode of pissy muttering earlier in the week over the bill’s lack of wall funding and boosts to interior immigration enforcement, as well Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s successful effort to obtain funding for the Gateway tunnel project, an issue over which Trump had previously threatened a veto. House Speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday raced to the White House to reassure Trump that the bill fulfilled all of Trump’s priorities, and that Trump had defeated Schumer. After the meeting, both Ryan’s team and the White House press operation hastily released statements indicating that Trump had committed to supporting the deal, before the president could change his mind.

“Let’s cut right to the chase,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said at a Thursday press conference. “Is the president going to sign the bill? The answer is yes.”

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Is Trump just screwing around here?

Many elements of a screwing-around are present. If he really wanted the deal killed, he would have issued this threat before the tight-as-a-tick House procedural vote on Thursday morning, giving a few more Republicans cover to vote against it. He probably saw some bad conservative press over the deal, of which there is plenty, and wanted to distance himself rhetorically from its swampiness. There’s not much political guesswork that needs to be done about how a veto would play out, either. The government shutdown would be wholly attributable to Trump’s demand for a wall, an unpopular political project. He would eventually have to surrender, on terms much friendlier to Democrats, and would eliminate the prospects of any further wall funding in the future, having wholly poisoned the project with this stand. It would not help Republicans’ efforts to protect their House majority this fall.

So yeah, good chance he’ll veto it. The government runs out of funding at midnight.

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