Following Donald Trump’s Oval Office address last night, congressional Democratic leaders explained, “We don’t govern by temper tantrum. No president should pound the table and demand he gets his way or else the government shuts down.”
Perhaps the president missed the remarks, because this afternoon, during brief White House talks about re-opening the government, Trump threw a tantrum, pounded the table, and demanded he get his way or the shutdown would continue,
President Donald Trump abruptly walked out of a closed-door meeting with congressional leaders Wednesday in the White House Situation Room after Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she wouldn’t fund his border wall if he ended a government shutdown first.
“She said ‘No,’” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said, adding that Trump slammed the table. “He said, ‘Then we have nothing to discuss’ …He just walked out of the meeting.”
Echoing last night’s message, Schumer also told reporters, “Again we saw a temper tantrum because he couldn’t get his way.”
We don’t have to wonder whether Schumer’s version of events is true: after literally walking away from the negotiating table, the president turned to Twitter and largely confirmed the Democratic senator’s version of events.
Vice President Mike Pence soon after spoke to reporters, and fleshed out the White House’s position. That was useful, in a way, though Pence’s perspective was quite odd.
As the vice president put it, Democrats expect the president to re-open the government, at which point policymakers can have a meaningful debate over immigration policy. “But when the president says, ‘If I gave you exactly what you’re asking for, would you agree to border security and a wall?’ and they say, ‘No,” I think the American people deserve better.”
It’s a bad sign that Pence didn’t seem to recognize the absurdity of what he was saying.
In his vision, if Trump agrees to re-open the government, Democrats should necessarily be prepared to approve taxpayer dollars for a border wall. In other words, in this model, the White House believes re-opening the government would be a concession that should be met by reciprocal Democratic concessions.
That’s not how any of this works. Allowing the federal government to function and operate normally is not a concession worthy of a reward. If Trump wants to make Democrats an offer – “If you give me wall funding, I’ll give you ___” – he should certainly do so.
But if he fills in that blank with “I’ll allow federal operations to exist,” then he and his team are confused about the nature of this process.
Both sides are supposed to want the government to be open. Both sides are supposed to want the shutdown to end. Both sides are supposed to support the basic functionality of federal offices and agencies.
Trading wall money for ending a shutdown is not the basis for a deal. The fact that Trump doesn’t understand this suggests we are nowhere near a resolution.