Donald Trump thinks his threat to shut down the federal government if Congress won’t fund the wall Mexico was supposed to pay for to keep Mexicans out has nothing to do with the federal government’s effort to help Texans put back up walls, roofs, and other structures to keep the rain out after Hurricane Harvey:
[Todd Gillman, Dallas Morning News]: I’m wondering what you can tell the people of Texas in terms of long-term recovery efforts. And, in particular, you have been feuding [with] key congressional leaders and also threatened a government shutdown, potentially next month, over border wall funding. Are these [fights] going to hamper, long term, the funding that will be needed long term? …
TRUMP: No, Todd. I think you’ll see very rapid action from Congress, certainly from the president, and you’re going to get your funding. It’s a terrible tragedy. Your governor has been absolutely outstanding in the job he’s done.
… We expect to have requests on our desk fairly soon, and we think that Congress will feel very much the way I feel — in a very bipartisan way. That will be nice, but we think you’re going to have what you need and it’s going to go fast. …
GILLMAN: Does this situation make you reconsider the possibility of a government shutdown next –?
TRUMP: I think it has nothing to do with it, really. This is separate — this is going to go very, very quickly. I’ve spoken to many of the people we’re talking about, and everybody feels the same way I do [White House press conference, transcribed in Jeff Stein, “Trump Refuses to Retract Government Shutdown Threat Despite Hurricane Crisis,” Vox, 2017.08.28].
Now maybe Congress can approve money fast, but federal agencies like FEMA and its National Flood Insurance Program, along with the Small Business Administration and the Department of Agriculture, will be working with state and local officials well past September 30, the day the government runs out of money absent a budget deal.
If Donald Trump really thinks his reckless pretense of “negotiation” has nothing to do with emergency relief, he should talk to the South Dakota ranchers who voted for him in big numbers in 2016 but who found their emergency assistance after the October 2013 blizzard delayed for days by the last government shutdown:
Sylvia Christen, who works with livestock producers though the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association,… says that private insurance bought for cattle losses rarely covers suffocation deaths in a blizzard. She notes there are programs through federal agencies like the USDA aimed at disaster recovery for ranchers who suffer massive losses.
But when ranchers call the USDA these days, here’s what they get: “Hello, you’ve reached the USDA service center. Due to the lapse in current federal government funding, all employees aren’t available until further notice. Thank you” [Charles Michael Ray, “Shutdown Hunders S.D. Post-Blizzard Cleanup,” NPR, 2013.10.14].
Understanding that you have to keep the federal government open and funded to provide disaster relief isn’t a complicated requirement for being President of the United States; it’s just common sense. But hey, maybe Donald Trump thinks he can get FEMA to work for free just like his overstretched Secret Service agents.