Editorial Hearing voices

December 26, 2018

In the traditional White House call to troops stationed overseas at Christmas, President Donald Trump said he has the support of “many” federal workers furloughed during the government shutdown over his refusal to sign any spending bill that doesn’t pay for a wall along the Mexican border.

“Many of those workers have said to me — communicated — stay out until you get the funding for the wall,” Trump said. That may well be true, but then again this is a president whose proficiency in prevarication is well documented.

About 380,000 employees were furloughed while Trump and Congress try to end the shutdown that began at midnight Friday. Another 420,000 employees considered essential were ordered to work without pay until the stalemate over the president’s demand for $5 billion for the border wall ends. The wall’s total cost is estimated at anywhere from $21 billion to $70 billion.

The Senate on Friday voted unanimously to compensate furloughed federal workers “at the earliest date possible after the lapse in appropriations ends, regardless of scheduled pay dates.” That’s nice, but knowing you’re going to get paid isn’t nearly as satisfying as getting paid.

“The big thing is, it’s already a very tough job,” said Justin Tarovisky, a correctional officer at the federal penitentiary in Hazelton, W.Va. “But when you know that you’ve got to go to work and you’re not going to be paid for it — or it’s going to be late, no matter what — it really brings you down.”

As bad as this shutdown is, its odor becomes even more repugnant when you consider how close it came to being avoided. A spending agreement between Democrats and Republicans appeared imminent. Trump seemed inclined to approve it, and then changed his tune amid rebukes from his typically fervent supporters on talk radio and TV.

Rush Limbaugh said Trump was “getting ready to cave.”

Ann Coulter said if it didn’t build the wall the Trump administration would go down in history as “a joke presidency that scammed the American people.”

Laura Ingraham suggested that building the border wall is more important than the Robert Mueller investigation. “Forget Mueller. The wall, the wall, the wall — has to be built,” she said.

And just like that, any deal was thrown out the window and the shutdown ensued. It appears unlikely to end until the new year comes and Trump, having lost his Republican majority in the House, resigns himself to making a deal that he can claim as a victory. Maybe that sufficed as a way to run his businesses, but it’s no way to lead a country.

Washington is broken and Americans need leaders who can fix it.

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