But time and time again, conventional wisdom has been in exile in the age of Trump.
Funding for the latest continuing resolution is set to expire on April 28 while the president is in the middle of a two-front war with Democrats and the House Republican Freedom Caucus.
And while the threat of a government shutdown has become a quarterly tradition on Capitol Hill, how the president will negotiate avoiding one could be a wild card.
“If I were a betting man, I would want to cover every conceivable bet,” said Don Kettl, a professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
“It would be hard to even try to figure out what the spread ought to be.”
While recent budget battles have hinged on a few central flashpoints — like funding for Planned Parenthood or whether to accept Syrian refugees — multiple issues surrounding this negotiation have the potential to snarl a CR, from agency budget cuts to funding the border wall or even the travel ban.
“The signature issue this time is a lack of a single signature issue,” Kettl said. “There are so many balls in the air, both involving the Freedom Caucus and the president’s promise to make a deal with the Democrats to problems in the House and the Senate — there’s this whole set of basic procedural issues before we even get to the policy questions.
“If you look through the skinny budget, there’s a whole long catalog of things that could become flashpoints depending on what the Republicans try to push through and what the Democrats are going to try to resist.”
The White House’s supplemental 2017 budget calls for an additional $30 billion for the Department of Defense, as well as $1.5 billion for the proposed border wall. To get it passed, the president will need support from either the Freedom Caucus or the Democrats, both of whom he effectively declared war on in a March 30 tweet.
The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don't get on the team, & fast. We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 30, 2017
Given that fiscal 2017 only has five months left, Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel of the Professional Services Council, said he anticipated that Congress and the White House would want to avoid a shutdown and would fund the remainder of the year to focus on 2018 spending.
“It is very difficult to make major policy and certainly major spending changes over that relatively short period of time,” he said. “You can stop doing some things, but even so, there are some limits to even what you can stop.”
But while Washington has stared down scores of potential shutdown scares before, the wild card remains Trump. Having seen negotiations stall with the Freedom Caucus over the American Health Care Act, it’s uncertain how the president will approach these budget talks.
“Trump is what is known in the trade as a competitive rather than cooperative negotiator," Daniel Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer-winning investigative journalist who has covered Trump’s business dealings for The New York Times and authored the 2016 book, The Making of Donald Trump, said in an email. "To Donald, it’s about winning or at least being able to assert he won.”
“Key thing to remember is he has NO government experience and in business he had no bosses except briefly when the bankers had him on a very long leash in 1990. He is used to being a dictator in his realm, who demands absolute loyalty from those below, which is usually a one-way street.”
Johnston added that Trump has faced tough negotiations before, mostly centered on the tangled financial saga of his casino holdings in Atlantic City, where the president managed to avoid personal bankruptcy despite owing money to more than 70 banks.
“But there he persuaded the [New Jersey] Casino Control Commission to take his side against his bankers, which was easy since all but two of the 70 or so banks were headquartered outside of New Jersey,” he said.
Chvotkin said a budget compromise would be in the best interest of Trump and the Republicans, and that contractors are cautiously optimistic a deal would get done.
“We’ve been to this dance before,” he said. “They are not ignoring the risk of a shutdown, but they are not taking significant overt action to prepare for it.”