Earlier this week, bipartisan negotiators reached an agreement in principle to fund the government and prevent another shutdown ahead of Friday’s deadline. We haven’t yet seen all of the details, but NBC News highlighted some of the details of the deal, as described by multiple sources:
* $1.375 billion for border barrier enhancements like steel slats and other “existing technologies,” but no concrete wall;
* The money would fund about 55 miles of new barrier;
* Geographic restrictions on where the new fencing could built, likely limited to the Rio Grand Valley sector of the border.
It’s worth pausing at this point to take a stroll down memory lane.
In 2017, the White House put together a budget request seeking $25 billion for a border wall project. In early 2018, Democrats were prepared to meet the president’s demands – Trump had taken DACA protections for Dreamers hostage, and Dems felt like they had to pay the ransom – but the president turned down the deal because it didn’t include cuts to legal immigration.
In the months that followed, Trump’s dreams … evolved. The original White House vision was for a 1,000-mile concrete wall, to be paid for by Mexico. By late last year, the president wanted $5.6 billion for steel slats, to be paid for by Americans.
The bipartisan deal that Trump rejected in mid-December, after originally having endorsed it, included $1.6 billion for border security measures. The deal Vice President Mike Pence offered Democratic leaders around the same time was for $2.5 billion, though Trump rejected that, too, demanding more.
It now appears Trump will end up with $1.375 billion, which leaves him further away from his goal than if he’d accepted the bipartisan package two months ago and failed to launch the longest government shutdown in American history.
Jackson Diehl wrote last year, in reference to the Republican president, “He’s good at bluster, hype and showy gestures, but little else. In short, he may be the worst presidential deal maker in modern history.”
In context, the Washington Post columnist was referring to Trump’s efforts in North Korea, but it’s an assessment with surprisingly broad applicability.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters last year, “[T]he president is, I think, the ultimate negotiator and dealmaker when it comes to any type of conversation.”
If Democrats are very lucky, Trump will continue to display these masterful skills for the remainder of his presidency.