Trump dangles government shutdown as impeachment looms

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Congress and the White House have until Nov. 21 to pass a spending bill to keep the federal government operating, but President Trump isn’t making any promises.

“I wouldn’t commit to anything,” Trump told reporters who asked him whether he’d “commit to no government shutdown.”

“It depends on what the negotiations are,” the president said.

It’s not unusual for Trump to hedge his support when it comes to backing congressional spending negotiations. Still, this time, a looming impeachment vote could make it harder for lawmakers to win his signature on critical spending legislation.

The spending measure that is now keeping the government operating is set to expire on Nov. 21, just as House Democrats are ramping up their effort to impeach Trump.

Public hearings are scheduled to begin Nov. 13, with the testimony of Ambassador William Taylor. He said in a closed-door deposition that he believed Trump withheld security aid to Ukraine to get the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, who is running for president.

Former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who said she felt threatened by Trump before Trump removed her from her post, will testify Friday, Nov. 19, which is the final legislative day before the current spending bill expires.

At the same time, lawmakers, who have been unable to work out a long-term spending accord thanks to partisan squabbling, are likely to pass another temporary bill that would keep the government operating a few more weeks.

But will Trump sign it?

“It’s in the hands of the president,” Senate Minority Leader Dick Durbin, who is an appropriator, told the Washington Examiner. “We know that he is capable of stopping the ordinary business of government if he feels he’s been personally questioned or insulted. I hope it doesn’t reach that point.”

Republicans told the Washington Examiner Trump has little interest in shutting down the government out of anger over the impeachment effort.

“I think it is to the president’s advantage to fund the government like it is everyone else’s,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby told the Washington Examiner.

Shelby said the top bipartisan appropriators would meet Tuesday to try to work out a deal on fiscal 2020 spending.

Both parties were bruised earlier this year by a partial government shutdown that lasted five weeks and centered around a fight over whether to provide money for a southern border wall between the United States and Mexico.

Trump administration officials are eager for Congress to agree on a full fiscal 2020 spending deal that is now stalled, Republicans said.

Democrats want a more favorable deal on dividing up overall spending, while Republicans want to start passing some of the measures that have bipartisan support.

“I’m told generally that the White House wants to get this done,” Sen. Roy Blunt, a top appropriator, told the Washington Examiner.

Trump’s signature on either a short-term or long-term spending bill may depend more on wall funding than the impeachment effort.

Democrats have been looking for ways to block Trump’s unilateral move to repurpose Defense Department money for wall construction.

Trump’s legislative affairs director, Eric Ueland, said Trump would sign another short-term bill, called a continuing resolution, “as long as the president’s policy priorities are not impeded” and the measure does not include language blocking him from spending on the wall.

“We want the spending process to continue to unfold and the government to continue to be funded going forward,” Ueland said. “We have a lot of wall constructions going on across the border, and that can continue under a continuing resolution.”

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