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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

A shutdown? No, not again

Over this weekend, news reports grew a little louder about a possible government shutdown late Friday night. A few weeks ago, it seemed to be a fringe topic because it was just too unimaginable.

Well, I guess it is pretty imaginable now. So as a journalist and commentator on government contracting, I guess I could trot out the same old tropes:

  • Stay close to your customers.
  • Talk to your contracting officers.
  • Determine what’s considered essential.
  • Can you access a government office during a shutdown?

Yadda, yadda, yadda.

You would think that with the same party controlling the White House and both houses of Congress, getting a budget passed, especially one that only has to last through Sept. 30, would be low hanging fruit. A no-brainer.

I don’t want to write about a possible shutdown again. I’m not really sure what to say. And you, dear reader, are probably sick of it as well.

It is understandable that we have a continuing resolution for longer than usual. After all, we don’t just have a change in administration but a change in the political party occupying the White House. That’s a big deal.

If things worked properly, a budget would have been passed before inauguration. Before the election, frankly, but I think we’ve given up ever seeing a budget passed before the fiscal year begins.

A new president should come in with a clean slate to craft a budget so he has the time to craft his priorities and build support. A new president shouldn’t need to worry about quickly passing a spending bill for the rest of the year.

But we had a divided government in the fall. So you can see the politics of not wanting to pass a budget or sign a budget that gives the other side what they want.

And now we supposedly have a unified government and they are still resorting to a week of brinkmanship.

Who is going to flinch first? Will the president actually veto a budget if it doesn’t include increased defense funding and money for a wall along the Mexican border?

Repealing Obamacare also is in the mix. Are these all just bargaining chips?

“We’ll give you Obamacare if you give up on the wall for now.” Is that the conversation that’s going on?

OMB Director Mick Mulvaney told the AP Democrats can have $1 for health care subsidy payments for every $1 that goes to fund the border wall. Will enough Democrats bite?

Coincidentally, if the shutdown occurs, it will be on the 100th day of the Trump administration, a traditional milestone. A shutdown would be politically disastrous for the president and would show a failure of leadership. That’s the conventional wisdom anyway.

President Trump would like point the finger at Democrats but he also showed in the aftermath of the failed attempt to repeal Obamacare that he’s not shy about blaming fellow Republicans. In that case, it was the conservative Freedom Caucus.

There also are reports that President Trump will reveal a tax reform plan this week.

Those are major policy initiatives being squeezed into a tight week: repeal Obamacare part 2, fund a border wall, increase defense spending and reform the tax code. And all of that is on top of getting a budget through.


I don’t think we’ll see a shutdown but I doubt a plan for the rest of the fiscal year will emerge. Instead, they could extend the continuing resolution a week or so to give negotiations more time.

Another old trope: Yes, they’ll kick the can down the road.

And when that extension is coming to a close, we’ll be writing again about the government staring into the abyss of a shutdown. Déjà vu all over again.

I don’t want to do that. Do you?

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Apr 24, 2017 at 12:42 PM

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