Trump Walled In On Shutdown
Poll after poll shows that Americans hold President Donald Trump and his Republican allies responsible for the government shutdown, which is hardly surprising since Trump declared he’d be “proud” to shutter the government. In the most recent poll conducted by Reuters/Ipsos, 47 percent of Americans blame the president for the shutdown, compared to 33 percent who fault Democrats. Moreover, according to NBC News, “just 35 percent of those surveyed in the Reuters/Ipsos poll said they backed including money for the wall in a congressional spending bill. Only 25 percent said they supported Trump shutting down the government over the matter.” Back in GOP’s lap For those with any passing relationship with reality, the entire exercise is politically inane. The public doesn’t support either the ends (the wall), or the means (the shutdown). This week, Democrats will take charge of the House, swiftly pass the clean continuing resolution to open the government, and send it to the Senate, daring Republicans there to vote against the exact same resolution they previously supported. At that point, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has four options: ■ First, he can put the clean resolution on the floor, where it would pass, and see whether Trump has the nerve to veto it, and if so, whether there would be 67 votes in the Senate to override the veto. That would be the most humiliating option for Trump. Hence, so it would be the least likely route for McConnell to take. ■ Another possible outcome would be to pass all the appropriations bills and reserve a separate vote on wall funding, which, of course, would fail. Then Trump could holler about Congress’s lack of nerve. This is a less obvious but no less complete collapse so, once again, McConnell likely won’t try this. ■ A third alternative would be to nudge up the dollar amount for border security (from $1.6 billion to, say to $2 billion), without specific permission for the wall-building. Trump can claim he got money for “steel slats” (which he now considers a wall), while Democrats can remind voters Trump didn’t get a wall, defined as “a continuous vertical brick or stone structure that encloses or divides an area of land.” This is a less obvious capitulation, so McConnell might try it. Hardliners stand firm The final alternative makes the most sense, but would be furiously opposed by White House policy adviser Stephen Miller, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, and the anti-immigrant zealots that make up a critical part of the president’s base: Give Trump his $5 billion (less than the $25 billion once on the table, reminding us Trump is the worst presidential negotiator ever) in exchange for legalizing the “dreamers.” Given the logistical nightmares entailed in building the wall — beginning with environmental hurdles and Fifth Amendment property seizures (taking rural lands owned mostly by Republicans), Democrats know the wall is unlikely to be built anytime soon. A subsequent Congress could always defund it. It would be ransom, but relatively cheap ransom — a phony wall — in exchange for somewhere between about 700,000 and 3.6 million dreamers. None other than former Republican Newt Gingrich , a former speaker of the House, recently argued: “Whether you support money to build the wall or regard it as a waste, everyone knows it is of central importance to the president and he is proving he is prepared to fight for it. Why shouldn’t Congress take advantage of the best opportunity in years to give the dreamers the open door they deserve?” In other words, pro-dreamer lawmakers would get a sweet deal, and Trump would no doubt quickly anger a good chunk of his base, which regard any legalization of anyone to be the dreaded “amnesty.” Cue the scary music. That’s why the fourth and most reasonable alternative is unlikely to fly either. The same crowd that went nuts when Trump was prepared to sign a continuing resolution would have a meltdown if Congress spent $5 billion to legalize possibly millions of people. The solution, given Trump’s rotten bargaining position, is for Democrats to find the approach most advantageous to them and most embarrassing to Trump. If I were a betting person, I’d lay odds that we’ll wind up with steel slats. JENNIFER RUBIN writes for The Washington Post.