The most predictable political crises of every year—debt ceiling and budget—are heating up again in Washington, with everyone very well aware that they have to be figured out by the end of the summer, and no one feeling confident that that can happen with Donald Trump in the White House. Without a budget agreement by then, the automatic cuts of more than $100 billion from 2011’s Budget Control Act will kick in. That’s child’s play compared to the global economic catastrophe threatened by a potential default on U.S. debt if the ceiling isn’t raised by this fall.
One senior Republican congressional aide told CNN, “It’s one of those cartoonish anvil-over-head moments. […] We all look around knowingly like ‘Man, we’re about to get crushed by this,’ but nobody’s really sure how to get out from underneath it right now.” It doesn’t help at all that former Freedom Caucus maniac Mick Mulvaney, who never saw a political hostage he didn’t like, is now running the White House.
It means that Trump won’t even agree with fellow Republicans on something as obvious and important as disaster relief. “If we can’t do this, what the heck can we do on something much bigger?” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby after talking to Mulvaney. “I hope this is not a preview of coming events.” He apparently got nowhere with Trump’s guy. “This is the longest I remember I’ve ever seen something this important not be resolved,” Shelby added. “But I said, ‘This is small—very important, but small—compared to what we’re going to have to face if we don’t get some direction.'”
Shelby seems to have little belief that Trump understands just how big a deal this could be. To that end, he told CNN, “he and his staff are working on a document with the Congressional Budget Office and the Office of Management and Budget that lays out the effects plainly for all to see” to take to Trump. It’s going to have to be very short and have a lot of pictures if it’s going to make any dent on him. Democrat Chuck Schumer’s solution is for Congress to just do its thing and present it to Trump as a done deal. “I think that the only way we’ll get a budget is the way we’ve gotten one the last two years, if the President stays out of it,” Schumer told CNN. “I think if you talk to my Republican colleagues, and they told you what they’re telling us, they’d tell you the same thing.”