Trump White House wasn’t prepared for a shutdown—and still isn’t prepared for what’s coming

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CBC News / YouTube Trump on Kavanaugh vote delay for...
CBC News / YouTube

A week before the shutdown began, no one at the White House thought there was going to be a shutdown. Donald Trump had already agreed to a continuing resolution to keep the government working into the new year, a resolution that passed the Senate on a 100-0 vote. But then Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh made fun of Trump, and everything changed. Concerned that Ann might think his package was as small as his hands, Trump declared that he would not sign the bill that he had had already told everyone he would sign. And with that, the United States entered into what’s already well on it’s way to being the nation’s longest government shutdown.

Let history record that there was absolutely no cause behind this shutdown. No national crisis. No principled stand. Nothing but a fresh prick applied to the nation’s most easily bruised ego.

And, because this shutdown wasn’t supposed to happen, no one was prepared for the shutdown to happen. This wasn’t a strategy, something that Republicans had been working on for weeks or months. It’s was an overnight, 180-degree flip by Trump alone. As a result of that, no one made the slightest preparation for how government operations would continue during the shutdown. Not defense. Not DHS. Not the treasury. Nobody.

The shutdown is not just turning National Parks trash-filled rule-free zones where three people have already died. It’s not just left airport screeners working without pay, prompting a round of no-green flu. It’s not just left the Coast Guard risking their lives with no promise of a paycheck. As the Washington Post reports, the shutdown is now reaching the point where it’s going to mean no food stamps for tens of millions of families. It also means there’s no one at the IRS cutting tax refund checks for families and small businesses that depend on those funds.

On Friday, Donald Trump declared that he was willing to keep the government shut down for “months or years.” But there has been absolutely no planning for what that would mean, and even making that suggestion is already having an impact — because months of a government shutdown would absolutely shred America’s economy as well as completely surrender the national security that Trump claims as his primary concern.

What’s the worst possible thing to hear in the midst of a shutdown that is a week away from being the nation’s longest?

The Trump administration, which had not anticipated a long-term shutdown, recognized only this week the breadth of the potential impact, several senior administration officials said. The officials said they were focused now on understanding the scope of the consequences and determining whether there is anything they can do to intervene.

As with everything else, Trump doesn’t operate on a plan. Today we’re bombing Syria. Today we’re getting out. It all depends on how much indigestion Trump gets from his last double-cheese of the night, or maybe his interpretation of blink-messages passed along by Steve Doocy. Operating in a system where anything can happen, means that nothing can be anticipated, nothing is scheduled, nothing prepared.

On the food stamp front, a SNAP contingency fund would mean that if the shutdown continues to February, families would still get 64 percent of their funding. Which is not enough to provide the nutrition needed, but better than the 0 percent that would be available the next month.

Representative Rosa DeLauro: People in this country will go hungry. It’s simple. They go hungry. . . . These are working people.

Ninety percent of the staff is at home at the IRS, meaning that tax refund checks are not going out. And as Americans begin working on tax forms that contain some radical changes from previous years, there is absolutely no one out there to answer the phone.

Ninety percent of the NASA staff is also sitting at home, crippling the nation’s launch capability. Better than half of the DHS staff is idled, while the other “exempt” half works on without pay. The same is true of the Coast Guard, which is conducting drug intercepts and high seas rescues with no prospect of pay. A lingering shutdown would mean that these systems, systems that control every border, would utterly collapse.

In a rambling, all-over-the-map press appearance on Friday, Donald Trump insisted that the people idled by his shut down were “with him,” and that if someone were to ask, they would tell him to “carry on.”

It’s high time someone asked.

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