Months? Maybe. Years? Probably not.
Following a meeting with congressional leaders including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Trump emphasized that he stood as firm as ever in his request for border wall money — and said he wouldn’t be willing to reopen the government until lawmakers allocated the funds he wants.
Up until now, Trump has argued that he won’t settle for anything less than $5 billion in border wall funding, while Democrats have drawn the line at $1.3 billion for border security.
If Congress doesn’t acquiesce to his demands, a stalemate could go for “years,” Trump said during the meeting, according to Schumer. Trump later confirmed the remarks to reporters and added that while he saw a standoff like that as a possibility, he personally hoped it “doesn’t go on even beyond a few more days.”
Trump’s own caveat points to just how unlikely such a lengthy shutdown would be.
It’s true that he isn’t the first to note that it could go on for some time — Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) posited that it could extend for “months” earlier this week — but the idea that it would last for “years” is a major stretch.
For one, it would mark a completely unprecedented lapse in government functionality: The longest government shutdown that’s ever taken place in US history lasted for 21 days, meaning none have gone on for more than a month, let alone a year. For this shutdown to break this record by such an extent would be pretty shocking.
What’s more, Congress almost definitely wouldn’t let that happen — especially given the hundreds of thousands of federal employees whose paychecks are directly affected by the impasse. As things stand, roughly 800,000 federal employees are either furloughed or working without pay, and they’ll be seeing that dent in their paychecks shortly on January 11. (These employees have typically received back pay after previous shutdowns have ended, though many government contractors have not.)
The outcry from federal employees — some of whom have had to file for unemployment or take up other work to cover costs — is already putting pressure on lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to find a resolution, and if it goes on for much longer that’s expected to only increase.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters on Friday that staffers are negotiating this weekend. “The Leader said [Friday] that staff would be working over the weekend with the aim of having solutions by early next week,” a spokesperson from his office reiterated. McConnell’s statement comes as a growing number of House and Senate Republicans, including Cory Gardner (R-CO), are urging leadership to reopen the government and do so without providing wall funding.
Of course, it’s possible that Trump continues to maintain his opposition to any deal that emerges. In that scenario — if the shutdown drags on for long enough — Republicans and Democrats could theoretically join together to override a Trump veto, which requires two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate.
Either way, it’s more likely they’ll figure a way out than let this shutdown continue for anywhere close to a year.