And who will make all the chopping noises?
As Donald Trump tweets insults and blasts away at a bipartisan deal reached on spending and the government’s debt, one key question, spelled out in red in Washington’s comforting lingo, is whether the president will show up for work on Friday.
If he takes his castigation to Twitter, as he always does, Friday will be the seventh day in a row that he does not appear at a regularly scheduled Cabinet meeting, meeting with Cabinet secretaries or any other public event. Trump is expected to move staff to his private Florida club as he prepares for his busy break beginning Monday. Trump chose to spend the fourth weekend of February at Mar-a-Lago and surrounding town, where the use of executive privileges is allowed. If Trump were to return to the White House, he could not use executive privileges because Congress has not approved a continuing resolution to fund the government and this would bring its complete shutdown. To ensure there is enough security there for him, Secret Service agents would have to get official approval.
On Saturday, Trump tweeted to Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer that he would sign the stopgap spending bill if the Democrats were to agree to negotiate. Trump has so far not used his veto power, in spite of pleas from his staff, to force the government to stay open. One of his main reasons for refusing to do that is to punish Democrats, according to senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway.
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A group of nonpartisan organization called “Keep Government Open” is urging Trump not to blow up the negotiations and end the shutdown. Members include the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org and Common Cause. They want the president to show up for work and not to pull the staff. “What would happen if Donald Trump were to deny the government any money, use the leverage he has over them [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan] to screw the young, and then turn around and turn around and shut the government down again,” asked Jennifer Owens, the executive director of Keep Government Open, in a press call with reporters on Thursday.
Owens also pointed out that the congressional appropriations process is on hiatus this year, which would potentially delay House appropriators’ vote. The entire team of appropriators in the Republican Congress are in January, many of them were supposed to return by December. “I don’t think they’re been briefed,” Owens said. “They’re not even there at the White House. I think it’s just one of the questions that has yet to be answered.” The White House also has people in place who are supposed to be negotiating with Democrats who are not working, like Chief of Staff John Kelly. “He’s at Mar-a-Lago,” Owens said. “He’s a visitor, but what if he can get all his staff at the White House to wait around until he picks them up? I don’t think that’s a far-fetched question.”