Maybe it won’t be this time. Maybe it won’t be next time. But at some point in the future, it seems inevitable that President Donald Trump will take the advice of his supporters at Fox News and shut down the federal government.
With the September 30 expiration of government funding swiftly approaching, the Senate on Tuesday voted 93-7 to pass a carefully negotiated short-term spending bill that would keep the federal lights on until December 7, after the midterm elections. The legislation gives all parties some of what they want but none of them all of what they want -- including the president, as it does not provide the funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border that he has demanded.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) portrayed the bill as a breakthrough, evidence that the Senate “is getting its appropriations process back on track.” The House of Representatives was expected to take up the legislation next week, raising hopes that federal funding could be swiftly secured.
But then the president watched television.
On Thursday morning, Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), one of the handful of Republicans to oppose the legislation, went on Fox & Friends, the president’s favorite morning news program, to condemn the bill. Host Brian Kilmeade chimed in, arguing that the lack of wall funding was “a thumb in the eye to the president.”
And minutes later, Trump, who was watching the show, began angrily tweeting his displeasure with the legislation, calling into question whether he will sign it if it comes to his desk.
His latest tweets are part of an alarming pattern: Federal policy has increasingly been influenced by the president’s television habits and the “shadow cabinet” of cable news personalities he privately consults for advice.
Trump threw the Capitol into chaos in January by appearing to withdraw his support for major surveillance legislation after watching a Fox contributor turn to the camera and say, “Mr. President, this is not the way to go.”
In March, he threatened to veto an omnibus spending bill, perhaps because one of his favorite pundits was savaging the legislation on Fox & Friends.
Last month, the president criticized Google after watching his sycophants attack the company’s “tyranny” on Fox host Lou Dobbs’ show. Hours later, his top economic advisor told reporters that the administration was considering new regulations on the company.
And earlier this week, he admitted that he had demanded the declassification of sensitive Justice Department documents that he had not read -- and that experts warn could endanger U.S. intelligence sources and methods -- because he had been urged to do so by Fox hosts.
Republican congressional leaders, worried about the impact of a shutdown on their hopes of retaining power after midterm elections, may be able to talk the president down. But sooner or later, the Fox government shutdown is coming.