It’s one of those developments that sits on the calendar like an unpleasant dental procedure. You know it’s coming, but all things considered, you’d prefer not to think too much about it.
I’m referring, of course, to the next government shutdown deadline, which is just nine days away. There are 12 spending bills that fund the federal government, and five have already passed. But if the other seven – which cover everything from the State Department to federal law enforcement to the Department of Homeland Security – aren’t addressed by a week from Friday, much of the government will shut down (again).
So, what’s the sticking point? As Donald Trump told Politico, he’s still expecting Congress to fund his proposed border wall.
Nine days ahead of a deadline that could trigger a partial government shutdown, with no solution in sight, the president told POLITICO in a Tuesday Oval Office interview that he is unflinchingly firm Congress must send him a bill approving $5 billion for his wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, and said he would “totally be willing” to shut down the government if he doesn’t get it. Democratic leaders – including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) – have said they would approve $1.6 billion for the wall, placing the two sides billions of dollars apart as the lame-duck session begins.
Raising the stakes even higher for the GOP, Trump said the $5 billion would only cover the physical border. “The number is larger for border security,” he said.
“I don’t do anything … just for political gain,” Trump told Politico. “But I will tell you, politically speaking, that issue is a total winner. People look at the border, they look at the rush to the police, they look at the rock throwers and really hurting three people, three very brave border patrol folks – I think that it’s a tremendous issue, but much more importantly, is really needed. So we have to have border security.”
Let’s unpack this a bit because the prospect of another shutdown is quite real.
First, the president keeps saying three border-patrol officials were seriously hurt from migrants throwing rocks, but he appears to be lying.
Second, the idea that a border wall is “a total winner” from a political perspective is ridiculous. Trump campaigned heavily on this issue throughout 2018 and his party suffered some dramatic setbacks, including losing the U.S. House majority. What’s more, poll after poll after poll show that the American mainstream does not support construction of a border wall.
Third, congressional Democrats are prepared to increase some funding on border security, but there’s no way Dems will give the president what he’s asking for. Trump has caved under similar circumstances – a pattern Democrats are well aware of – and the expectation is that he’ll either blink before the deadline or after the latest shutdown gets underway. The longer he drags out the fight he’ll inevitably lose, the worse it will be for him.
And finally, in a separate Washington Post interview, Trump raised the prospect of building a border wall in “other potential ways” if congressional negotiations fail. None of these “potential ways” appears to involve Mexico financing the project, which is what he promised voters on the campaign trail.