Trent Lott believes lawmakers will avoid government shutdown

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WASHINGTON DC— Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said he expects lawmakers on Capitol Hill to reach an agreement to fund the government by the time current appropriations expire on Nov. 21.

“A shutdown is unlikely because it’s just too stupid to comprehend,” Lott, a Mississippi Republican, told the Los Angeles Post-Examiner in an interview.

Lott said lawmakers will likely have to pass a stop-gap measure because of the impasse over passage of the 12 appropriations bills that fund the government each year.

“What they’re gonna have to do is, I believe, is a continuing resolution (CR). The only question, I think, is are they just going to extend it until Christmas, or Thanksgiving, or are they going to go ahead and extend it over until after the first of the year or maybe late-January?”

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) has said it might be necessary to pass a CR that extends until February or March due to tensions in the House over the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Trump said Sunday that he could not rule out a shutdown at the end of the month.

Trent Lott

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the inquiry in late-September. Her announcement came amid controversy over a whistleblower’s complaint about a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky.

Mark Zaid, the attorney for the whistleblower, has said his client did not have firsthand knowledge of the call. However, Zaid has said he has a second client who does have first hand knowledge of the call.

Democrats allege Trump threatened to withhold $400 billion in aid to Ukraine unless Zelensky agreed to open up an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, who sat on the board of Ukrainian gas company.

Trump declassified the transcript of the call shortly after the controversy began. He has described the conversation as “perfect” and has insisted there was no quid pro-quo.

The House Intelligence Committee privately interviewed more than a dozen current and former national security officials about the call during October. The secretive nature of the interviews sparked outrage from Republicans who demanded transparency and a floor vote to make the inquiry official. The vote took place last Thursday before the House left town for  a one-week recess. Public hearings are expected later this month.

Lott, who served as majority leader during the 1999 Senate trial of President Bill Clinton, said lawmakers should be mindful not to neglect legislative business during the impeachment inquiry. He mentioned the administration’s USCMA (United States, Canada, Mexico) trade agreement and a landmark prescription drug bill as two items that have broad bipartisan support.

“They could say, oh look, we can still walk and chew gum at the time.”

Lott is senior counsel with the D.C. lobbying firm Squire Patton Boggs. He served in the Senate from 1989-2007. Lott was Majority Leader from 1996-2002. He previously served as both Senate Republican Whip and House Republican Whip.