You've seen this movie before. The president is once again playing federal chicken over federal funds, with a number of immigration demands on the table. In a tweet, money for the border wall was thrown back in the limelight as — for the third time this year — Trump threatened a government shutdown. And this time around, it could seriously affect the 2018 midterm elections, according to Vox.
If Trump's threats were carried out, the shutdown would take place about a month before the high-stakes midterm elections, when the federal government would run out of money to, well, keep itself running. In his tweet on Sunday afternoon, Trump wrote, "I would be willing to “shut down” government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall! Must get rid of Lottery, Catch & Release etc. and finally go to system of Immigration based on MERIT! We need great people coming into our Country!"
Funding for Trump's border wall is a sore point; earlier this year, the president almost slapped a veto on a spending package in March because the package didn't include funds for his wall at the Mexico border. (He ended up signing the spending bill, though he made it clear on Twitter he was "unhappy" and felt "forced" to sign it.) The deadline for government funding is right at the end of September, and it's one that many Republicans are dead set on meeting to make sure the midterm elections in November go smoothly.
At first, it seemed like Trump wasn't going to threaten a shutdown again. As Politico reported, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had paid the commander-in-chief a visit earlier in the week to convince him on the finer points of excluding immigration from this particular spending bill — the one just weeks before the midterms. The two had offered a government spending strategy to "minimize the threat of a politically debilitating government funding lapse over border wall funding," according to Politico's White House sources. Apparently, Trump had seemed to be amenable to the GOP leaders' pitch at the time. Obviously, that changed over the weekend.
GOP leadership had wanted to push the inevitably bruising skirmish on border wall funding until after the elections in November, and that's because the Republicans are gearing up for an extremely competitive midterm election cycle. House Republicans are determined to retain their majority. But any border wall battles leading to a federal shutdown could hurt GOP popularity before voters take to the polls. With Trump's low approval ratings throughout his presidency — historically the lowest of the seven most recent presidents, according to TIME — GOP members are hoping to skip a government shutdown, which has always been unpopular with the public.
The government shutdown could also push hesitant conservative voters the other way or hit hard at purple states. With a federal government shutdown comes a suspension of services and facilities, and incumbents up for re-election are often blamed for the halt. The issue could also boost the Democrats, who are preparing for a fierce fight to regain control of the House and to put more of their own in the Senate.
Then there's the matter of Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee. Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing is scheduled for the fall, and Senate Republicans are hoping to grab more seats if he's sworn in, but the shutdown could also threaten his nomination.
Democratic lawmakers have sounded off on Twitter. One Democratic lawmaker criticized the president, calling his border wall "stupid" and Trump's plans "deeply unpopular anti-immigrant policies."
The former 2016 Democratic candidate for vice president dubbed Trump "President Shutdown" and blasted him for risking the economy.
There's a lot on the line here, and voters often cast their ballot based on recent memory and the political sentiment at the time. If the president carries through with a shutdown for his controversial immigration policies, how the midterm elections turn out will be anyone's guess.