Government shutdown still a possibility next month


WASHINGTON — An early December government shutdown is a real possibility, since a divided Congress can’t agree on military spending, Democrats insist on help for young immigrants and President Donald Trump’s position can change with each lawmaker he talks to.

Most of Washington is focused on overhauling the nation’s tax code, but lawmakers face a combustible mix of must-do and could-do items, with the current government spending bill set to expire Dec. 8.

On the list are immigration and a U.S.-Mexico border wall; an impasse over children’s health care; pent-up demand for budget increases for the Pentagon and domestic agencies; and tens of billions of dollars in hurricane aid.

Urgency: There’s plenty at stake for Republicans controlling Washington. Politically, there’s an urgency to avoid a debilitating shutdown just as the GOP hopes to wrap up an overhaul of the tax code that’s its top priority. And legions of GOP defense hawks are adamant that the Pentagon receive a huge 2018 budget hike approaching $80-90 billion. Trump and many followers want the U.S.-Mexico wall.

Democrats retain considerable power in the endgame — their votes are needed — and are pressing demands of their own. They want protections for immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as young children. They also demand budget increases for domestic agencies.

For his part, Trump tends to waver depending on the situation — siding with Democrats on a debt deal in September, promising Republicans last week that the controversial immigration issue won’t be part of the year-end spending measure.

Meanwhile, the tax debate is taking up energy, time and political capital, and GOP leaders seem reluctant to issue controversial decisions that might harm its chances.