Don’t look now, but the next big legislative battles of the Trump presidency may be just a few weeks away. Republicans must pass a budget by April 28 to avoid a partial government shutdown. Yet, as was the case during the recent failed effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, Democrats are united in opposition while Republicans are badly split.
The looming battle doesn’t concern the 2018 budget that President Trump purported to unveil a few weeks ago, which will spark a fight of its own down the road. Rather, it concerns budget business left over from last year when, unable to pass budget bills, a lame-duck Congress kicked the can down the road, passing a continuing resolution to fund the government through the end of this month. The time on that CR is now almost up, and Republicans are planning to offer an omnibus budget bill to fund the government for the rest of the year. To further complicate measures, this massive omnibus will likely be offered as an amendment to the 2017 defense-appropriations bill.
While the actual impact of government shutdowns is always vastly exaggerated by the media, the optics of a shutdown would only contribute to the image of an administration in disarray. Yet a retreat by the administration from its key priorities, especially in the wake of the health-care-reform debacle, will make it look weak, imperiling the rest of its agenda.
EDITORIAL: Trump’s Unrealistic Budget
The optics of a shutdown would only contribute to the image of an administration in disarray.
After that comes the battle over Trump’s 2018 budget, with its big increase in defense spending and offsetting cuts to domestic programs. Almost nobody is enthused by that plan. There’s also the president’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan to consider. Oh, and tax reform.
All of this budget maneuvering comes shortly after the Congressional Budget Office released an alarming new report warning that the national debt will double as a share of the national economy by mid-century. Interest payments on the debt will rise from $270 billion in 2017 to $768 billion in 2027, with catastrophic consequences for President Trump’s agenda of economic and job growth. According to the CBO, the rising tide of red ink will shrink economic growth by 3 percent from the current baseline. As a result, the average American will be $4,000 poorer by 2047.
Trump has had a tough first few weeks in office; if he thinks it’s about to get easier, he’s in for a rude awakening.
— Michael Tanner is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of Going for Broke: Deficits, Debt, and the Entitlement Crisis. You can follow him on his blog, TannerOnPolicy.com.
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