Two weeks ago, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) huddled with a group of like-minded Republican lawmakers to come up with a resolution to the government shutdown. The specific details weren’t released, but the basic idea of their package was to re-open the government and allow congressional committees to work on a broader immigration fix.
Republicans took their pitch to Vice President Mike Pence and acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who in turn took it to Donald Trump. The president immediately rejected it, even though the idea had come from his own ostensible GOP allies, who excluded Democrats from their talks.
Soon after, Pence summarized the administration’s position in four words: “No wall, no deal.”
The White House has struggled with consistency in some areas of this debate, but on this, Trump and his team never wavered: the government would remain closed until Congress approved funding for his medieval vanity project. The Daily Beast reported this week, “On Wednesday, during a private meeting of conservative allies and activists at the White House, Trump had told attendees he had no intention of going wobbly on the wall, especially not when he had heavy hitters in right-wing media behind him.”
President Donald Trump announced on Friday a short-term deal to temporarily reopen the government.
The stop-gap agreement with congressional leaders will last three weeks, until Feb. 15, and would allow talks to continue over security on the southern border. The deal includes no money for his border wall.
This new posture will bring this shutdown to an end. But what happens after Feb. 15?
According to the closing comments in Trump’s remarks this afternoon, he said he’s prepared to either shut down the government again in a few weeks or he’ll issue an emergency declaration.
This is significant for a reason: the White House expects Congress to spend the next three weeks working on an immigration deal that will include the wall funding the president expects. Unless Democratic leaders abandon every commitment they’ve made on the subject – a highly unlikely scenario – the landscape on Feb. 15 will look a whole lot like it does right now.
For the Republican Party’s far-right base, this is probably today’s only silver lining: Trump is giving in, and walking away with nothing but a diminished approval rating, but there’s a real prospect of a new legal dispute in mid-February.
In the meantime, the longest shutdown in American history has been a debacle for the ages for Donald Trump and his party. The endeavor hurt the country in a variety of ways; the crisis has done significant harm to the president’s political standing; and the resolution doesn’t even include a face-saving fig leaf for the embarrassed amateur in the Oval Office.
It’s been decades since any president suffered a defeat this complete.
Postscript: In case this crosses your radar, if your uncle who watches Fox News all day emails you to say the stopgap bill includes some funding to repair existing border barriers, that’s true, but that’s never been a point of contention. Democrats gladly included this money a while ago.