Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Murkowski: Shutdown not a 'winning political strategy'

Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she doesn’t believe President Donald Trump will take the federal government into another shutdown when the three-week stopgap funding measure ends Feb. 15. And she also believes Trump is on questionable legal footing with his suggestion he could declare a national emergency to get funding for a wall — however he defines such a barrier — if the result of negotiations in Congress during this three-week period don’t provide border security funding that he finds acceptable.

The 35-day partial government shutdown ended Friday with Trump accepting legislation passed by the Senate and House providing three weeks of funding for agencies but none for a wall along the border with Mexico. That issue, along with longer-term funding for the government agencies affected by the recent shutdown, is to be taken up by a bipartisan Senate-House conference committee.

The other three-quarters of the government was previously funded through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. Murkowski discussed her views in a Saturday phone call with the Daily News-Miner from her Washington, D.C., home.

“What I clearly heard, and this was not only publicly but in the private conversations and the meetings that I’ve been involved with a bipartisan group of senators, there is a real desire and an effort to get this behind us,” Murkowski said, “in the sense of the president has legitimate priorities that he has raised, we’re going to have to address it sooner or later, let’s try to do this in good faith and make it happen.

“There is a possibility, of course, that they are not successful, and everybody around here is saying, ‘Well then what?’” she said, adding that she also heard that concern in phone calls with federal workers and with spouses of Coast Guard personnel in Petersburg and Cordova. “They’re like, ‘What happens if this doesn’t work?’”

The “what next?” could be Trump acting unilaterally to fund the wall, a signature campaign promise, by declaring a national emergency.

“I think it is clearly an open subject as to whether or not he has that legal authority,” Murkowski said. “And we all know what happens around here when there’s some question: There’s going to be immediate litigation.

“But I just don’t see him moving to shut down the government again,” she said. “This has not been a good, winning political strategy for anybody. And I think that’s one of the things that 35 days of a shutdown has proven. So I don’t think we see a shutdown on Feb. 16. I absolutely, absolutely, hope that I’m right on this.”

Murkowski voted “yes” Thursday on both bills to reopen the government — one being Trump’s proposal that included wall funding, the other being the Democrats’ bill that didn’t include wall funding. Both bills failed.

The failure of the two bills led to frantic activity Friday, with Trump ultimately agreeing to sign three-week funding legislation that didn’t include wall funding. The idea is to give Congress additional time to reach a compromise acceptable to Trump. Republicans control the Senate; Democrats control the House.

Murkowski was one of six Republicans to vote for the Democrats’ bill. Immediately after the failure of both bills, she and Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland led a discussion among 17 senators on the Senate floor regarding “their commitment to engage in negotiations on border security enhancements and support for passage of a short-term continuing resolution to fund the government and end the shutdown,” according to a statement put out by her office.

Murkowski, in her Saturday interview with the News-Miner, also spoke of the need to eliminate the possibility of a government shutdown being used as means to advance a policy, either by a member of Congress withholding a key vote or a president refusing to sign a spending bill. She has co-sponsored the “End Government Shutdowns Act,” introduced by Republican Sen. Rob Portman, of Ohio.

Portman’s bill is one of several proposals built on the general idea of automatically triggering temporary funding legislation — a continuing resolution — when existing funding expires.

“Continuing resolutions are no way to run a government either,” Murkowski said. “But what’s worse? Putting something on autopilot for another month with the last year’s spending authorization or shutting everything down? I hear that shutting everything down is the worse alternative.”

By:  Rod Boyce
Source: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner