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Shutdown needs a grownup but both sides dig in deeper

January 13, 2019

Democrats are mostly right about the government shutdown, but they are mostly wrong about how to end it. This standoff needs a grownup to step forward and provide some kind of compromise, something that allows Democrats and President Trump to claim victory — or at least a fig leaf.

The man-child in the Oval Office is not going to fill that role, so that means the burden falls on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. They have the brains to craft something like this, but apparently not the heart.

Both are locked into hardline positions because their party (and especially its newly elected members of Congress) have veered left. They don’t want to be seen as old fogies with dangerous moderate tendencies, just as many Republicans must be careful not to come off as insufficiently conservative.

Many Democrats sense that national momentum is with them on the issue, and they despise Trump for his lies and policies. They are in no mood to throw him a life preserver. They know that Trump had two years to fight this battle with a completely Republican Congress — and that Mexico is supposed to pay for it anyhow.

But they also hate seeing 800,000 federal workers going without paychecks. Hey, this is the party of government, and usually big government.

But if none of the Big Three man up, the surprising savior may be another Republican. (His identity will be revealed at the end of this column; no peeking.)

The shutdown solution, which some in Washington are already talking about, is giving Trump more money for a wall — but not the entire $5.7 billion he wants. Oh, the “wall” will actually be a stout fence — and not over the entire border, just the necessary parts of it.

In exchange, Trump and Republicans would agree to provide legal status for the “Dreamers,” immigrants brought here illegally as children. They’ve grown up in America, and many don’t speak their parents’ language or remember the homeland of their birth. They deserve compassion in an immigration system often devoid of it.

Trump can live with something like that because he has said he wants to help the Dreamers, and his own definition of a “wall” has evolved over time. He can easily spin the result into another magnificent Trump triumph. Facts are optional.

Democrats should be able to agree to this, too, because much of the border already has fencing of various kinds. A few more miles won’t hurt, especially because they keep saying they want more “border security,” just not Trump’s danged wall. They can correctly say they buried the idea of a concrete wall once and for all.

But even three weeks into this standoff, positions are hardened and outreach is limited. Trump storms out of a meeting with Chuck and Nancy. Idled federal workers demonstrate. Trash piles up in national parks.

If the Big Three keep staring at each other angrily with arms folded across their chests, the hero might be … Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

He’s as conservative as they come — remember his stiff arm to Obama’s last Supreme Court nominee, the guy who never got a hearing? — but he’s also a pragmatist who wants the trains to run on time. He has been reportedly working behind the scenes for a way out of this mess.

When it does come — in whatever form — it will likely be because of him. In fact, he might be the only option. He’s old-school and loves to hammer out deals on legislation.

Besides, he has a secret weapon: He knows that Trump would love a fancy signing ceremony in the Oval Office with Chuck and Nancy smiling and standing behind him.

Thomas Taschinger, TTaschinger@BeaumontEnterprise.com, is the editorial page editor of The Beaumont Enterprise. Follow him on Twitter at @PoliticalTom

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