Negotiations over the current US government shutdown have, as far as I've heard, mainly been between the President and Congressional Democrats. So far, Republicans in Congress seem to be siding with the President in refusing any agreement not including a border wall, but there seem to be some cracks in this.

Suppose that a sufficient number of Congressional Republicans decided to break with the President and reached an agreement with Democrats, but which the President still found unacceptable. As I understand it, both houses of Congress could pass a spending bill along those lines. The President might then veto it (he could stall for up to 10 days first). Suppose, however, that Congress had the votes to override the veto (2/3 of each house).

If they were to override his veto, would this end the shutdown, or would the President somehow be able to continue it anyway?

I wonder if there is any argument that, even if Congress allocates money for the Government, it is up to the President to decide whether to actually spend it.

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    You mention a "sufficient number"; perhaps you could clarify what you mean by "sufficient". Suppose for instance that 99 of the 100 senators wish to pass a bill, and the 100th who does not is the Senate Majority Leader, who controls whether bills get a vote at all. Is 52 Republicans and 47 Democrats "sufficient" in this scenario, or not? Jan 17 '19 at 23:43
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    @EricLippert: Well, enough to pass a bill. I didn't want to quibble about the details. Replace "sufficient number" with "sufficient set" if you prefer. Jan 18 '19 at 2:51
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    @EricLippert: Also, it seems to be presumed that 27 Republicans could remove the Majority Leader and replace him with someone more sympathetic, though apparently it has never happened. Jan 18 '19 at 2:59
  • @JJJ: Thanks, I searched before but didn't find that (probably because it wasn't tagged [tag:government-shutdown, so thanks also for adding that). Jan 19 '19 at 15:39

If Congress has the 2/3 votes to override a Presidential veto, they can pass any budget they want with zero consideration for what the President thinks. Ever since the Impoundment Control Act of 1974, the President no longer has the authority to refuse spending Congressionally allocated funds.

Therefore Republicans are free to end the shutdown by agreeing not to allocate funds for the Mexico Wall and obtaining the required number of votes from the Democrats. Likewise the Democrats could agree to fund the wall and obtain the necessary votes from the Republicans. Which side to blame for the shutdown is up to you.

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    If the Democrats agreed to allocate funds for the wall, the vote threshold would probably come down to 50%+1 as there would no longer be a need to override a veto.
    – WBT
    Jan 17 '19 at 19:44
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    @WBT There would still be 60% needed in the Senate to overcome a filibuster (which is why the budget that did include the wall funding died upon reaching the Senate after passing in the House.)
    – reirab
    Jan 17 '19 at 20:52
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    @Trilarion While technically true, if the Senate passed it, it'd go to the house, where it would be highly likely to pass again. Or the Senate could approve H.R.266, which the house passed on the 11th and is virtually identical to the Senate bill that was passed last year. So that distinction is basically meaningless. Jan 17 '19 at 22:11
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    The Senate majority leader McConnell refuses to allow a vote on the budget, so you cannot have 2/3 votes if there's no voting session at all - hence the shutdown.
    – Katie
    Jan 18 '19 at 0:12
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    @KatieS he could be removed from power if enough senators vote against him Jan 18 '19 at 0:20

If they were to override his veto, would this end the shutdown, or would the President somehow be able to continue it anyway?

This would end the shutdown.

I wonder if there is any argument that, even if Congress allocates money for the Government, it is up to the President to decide whether to actually spend it.

Congress appropriates money for specific purposes. Unless Congress specifically delegates authority to someone else in the Executive branch, every dollar is supposed to be spent as stipulated in appropriations legislation. The President choosing to do something else with the money (including not spend it) would be illegal and likely be subject to a court challenge, and has been in the past.

It is also worth noting that as a purely tactical matter, there would be no value in trying to continue the shutdown in some sneaky way in the event of a veto override, because that much popular support in ending a shutdown in that fashion would mean that the President would never get what he wants from even his own party in Congress. The only reason the shutdown is continuing now is under the theory that some number of Democrats would agree to give him something he wants (e.g. if not the stated wish for $5 billion dollars for "The Wall" then some less significant but still desirable thing).


There is a bill in the Senate at this moment that has the votes to pass. It did not make to the floor, because the great majority leader, the senator from Kentucky, refused to bring it up for the vote. Since it did not have the super majority (the 2/3 margin to override the veto from the President), so even when it is passed, it would not end the shutdown.

This is the same bill that the President "supported" and about to sign if it made to his desk, until his friends from Fox News and the "conservatives" gave him the hard times for abandoning "his base". Since then, he insisted on having 5.7 billion for the wall, or he would not sign anything.

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    The president CLEARLY stated after signing the last continuing funding resolution bill that he would sign no more of those bills unless funding for the wall was included. Thus, your claim that the president "supported" a bill that he would have signed if it made it to his desk is yet another fabrication of reality that you most likely heard on some liberal fake news outlet.
    – Dunk
    Jan 18 '19 at 21:52
  • @Dunk - Senator McConnell appears to disagree with you. He did in fact bring forward a bill that included no funding for the wall. Clearly at that point in time he was confident that the President would sign it. And just as clearly, the President changed his mind once criticized by the right. Jan 19 '19 at 11:23
  • What is your reference that the president said he would sign the bill? Without that; it's all FAKE NEWS.
    – Dunk
    Jan 23 '19 at 20:41

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