Apr 2, 2017

Hell Week looms for Republicans

Evan Vucci / AP

On Capitol Hill, the last week of April is already being called Hell Week. That's when Congress returns from Easter break, with just days to prevent a government shutdown on April 29 — Day 100 of the Trump presidency.

This Friday, Trump is expected to get his first big congressional victory — the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court (although it looks it'll follow an ugly confrontation with Democrats that triggers the "nuclear option" to abandon the 60-vote threshold for confirmation).

The celebration will be short-lived. A shutdown is a very real possibility, Republican sources tell me — mainly because Republicans remain as fractured as they were when they tanked health reform:

  • The House Freedom Caucus wants to use the coming budget fight to shrink government by defunding Obamacare and Planned Parenthood.
  • Sen. John McCain told David Axelrod on the first TV version of his CNN podcast, "The Axe Files," that he'll do whatever it takes to increase military spending — even if that means a shutdown.
  • Dems have no interest in helping Trump and Republicans, so they'll fight on all fronts. A senior Democratic aide emails that the party realizes its leverage: "[A] shutdown... would completely be viewed by the public as a function of Republican dysfunction."

To avoid a shutdown, Republicans will probably have no choice but to seduce Ds. Steve Elmendorf, a top Democratic lobbyist, told me it's very possible to construct a government-funding bill that'll get Democratic votes (no defunding of Planned Parenthood, no money for a wall, a reasonable position on defense/non-defense spending).

"The only way you get to a shutdown is incompetence, which this group is certainly capable of," Elmendorf said.

For frantic Republicans at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, Hell Week looks like Hell Month.

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