Trump administration tries to keep agencies open — but only to deflect bad PR from shutdown
President Donald Trump’s White House is trying to keep key federal agencies running in spite of the government shutdown, but only because they want to blunt the political impact against the administration.
Politico said on Saturday that White House political operatives are fretting that Democrats could “weaponize” the shutdown against the administration and use that momentum to score momentous victories in the November, 2018 midterm elections.
The Department of the Interior and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will remain open until they run out of funds and many federal employees have been asked to report to work on Monday for a few hours to close up shop, wrote Politico‘s Lorraine Woellert.
In 2013, then-President Barack Obama ordered that the shutdown should be complete and include popular services like the National Part program so that Republicans would bear the brunt of their decision to shut down the government.
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney on Friday that the Trump administration is trying to prevent Democrats from “weaponizing” the shutdown against the GOP.
“The Obama administration weaponized the shutdown in 2013,” Mulvaney said. “The only conclusion I can draw is they did so for political purposes. So it will look different this time around.”
“They did not encourage agencies to use carry forward funds, funds that they were sitting on, nor did they encourage agencies to use transfer authority,” Mulvaney continued. “They could have made the shutdown in 2013 much less impactful, but they chose to make it worse.”
Politico said that many agencies have been thrown into turmoil by the uncertainty and that the administration does not appear to have a coherent strategy for the shutdown, which comes a year to the day after Pres. Trump’s inauguration.
Many Republicans are worried that their party will be blamed for the shutdown and further damage their chances against an anticipated “blue tsunami” of Democratic victories in the 2018 midterm elections. Mulvaney and others in the White House are wary of the political bind facing the administration. By appealing to Trump’s base of voters, they are alienating themselves from the rest of the country.
Other agencies will operate on the budgets they have, leaving a patchwork of federal agencies closed and others open. Mulvaney insisted to the media that the country will continue to function as normal.
“The military will still go to work. They will not get paid. The border will still be patrolled. They will not get paid. Folks will still be fighting the fires out West. They will not get paid. The parks will be open. People won’t get paid,” he said. “We are going to manage the shutdown differently. We are not going to weaponize it. We’re not going to try and hurt people, especially people who happen to work for this federal government.”