George H.W. Bush’s Last Public Service: Blocking a Government Shut Down This Week

December 3, 2018, 10:37 PM UTC

With the state funeral of George H.W. Bush nearing on Dec. 5, the former president’s last act of bipartisan civility may be averting a government shutdown for at least a week, and possibly two. Otherwise, the Department of Homeland Security, the IRS, the Commerce Department, and a few other federal agencies will have to furlough workers in non-critical positions starting Dec. 7.

Legislators had been expected to go at budget issues with hammers and tongs this week in anticipation of a potential Friday shutdown. The president has demanded $5 billion for new segments of a border wall with Mexico, but Democrats have stood firm so far in offering $1.6 billion for a variety of border-security measures.

It’s unclear whether President Donald Trump would veto a bill that didn’t include the full amount, but he has threatened to veto budget bills in the past that didn’t meet his border wall or other priorities, and then proceeded to sign them.

Referring to an extension, Trump said on Dec. 2, “I would absolutely consider it and probably give it.” Trump gave the answer on Air Force One during his return from the G20 summit in Argentina.

The Senate and House proceeded earlier this year in an almost orderly fashion to deliver several spending bills, often with near unanimity across the aisle, and Trump has proceeded to sign them. However, some budgetary items were kicked down the field with temporary extensions, and seven spending bills—representing about a quarter of discretionary spending and hundred of billions of dollars—remain unsettled.

Democrats and Republicans appear inclined to delay the shutdown by one week, though two weeks is possible. This last-minute budgetary delay cuts into members of Congress’s plans to return to their districts or head off on holidays. A planned Dec. 4 meeting with Democratic leaders Senator Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was postponed due to Bush’s death.

When presidents die, shows of partisanship typically sweep into D.C., in which past partisan bickering and all-out fights are forgotten, while current disputes are put temporarily on the shelf. The late President Bush particularly insisted President Trump be invited to attend his funeral, despite Trump’s knocks on various Bush family members during his campaign during his presidency. Trump will attend, but not offer a eulogy.

Bush lies in state in the Capitol Rotunda from Dec. 3 to Dec. 5. The federal government will close on Dec. 5 by order of the president as a gesture of respect to George H.W. Bush, Trump said.