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Choices: the Wall or Disaster Relief? (And other Tales of Exec-Leg Interaction)

Trump And GOP ElephantVia the AP, House GOP eyeing $1B disaster funds cut to finance wall:

President Donald Trump is promising billions to help Texas rebuild from Harvey-caused epic flooding, but his Republican allies in the House are looking at cutting almost $1 billion from disaster accounts to help finance the president’s border wall.

The pending reduction to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief account is part of a massive spending bill that the House is scheduled to consider next week when lawmakers return from their August recess. The $876 million cut, which is included in the 1,305-page measure’s homeland security section, pays for roughly half the cost of Trump’s down payment on the U.S.-Mexico border wall that the president repeatedly promised Mexico would finance.

But, this was proposed before Houston was under water:

The disaster relief cut was proposed well before Harvey and the politically bad optics are sure to lead lawmakers to do an about face, though that would create a money crunch in homeland security accounts.

I cannot imagine that this configuration of spending priorities will remain the same given the current circumstances.  September is going to be a huge challenge for Congress and the President:

Harvey aid is a fresh addition to an agenda already packed with must-do tasks and multiple legislative deadlines: Passing a stopgap spending bill to avert a government shutdown; increasing the government’s borrowing authority to prevent a market-quaking default on U.S. obligations; and paving the way for a GOP rewrite of the U.S. tax code.

Of course, Harvey illustrates that presidents have to govern in the context of variables they cannot control.  While a game of chicken over budget deadlines might have been possible prior to the hurricane, I cannot see how a government shutdown would be politically viable given the situation in Texas, nor can I see funding for the wall being a higher priority than disaster relief. (And all of that elides the weirdness of a Republican executive threatening a Republican legislature with a shutdown over a legislative priority).  Regardless, Trump is about to be very frustrated.  And while there is probably a great deal of consensus on tax cuts in the GOP making some kind of legislative success more likely than ACA repeal, that is still going to be contentious and, again, the current political climate makes major policy-making difficult.

For example, when members of the President’s party is saying thing like the following, it is clear that things aren’t harmonious in Washington:

“You’re not going to bully United States senators, this isn’t the Apprentice,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., referring to Trump’s star turn on the reality television show. “You can’t look at them and say you’re fired, you’re going to need their vote and you oughtta remember that they’re going to be at the table in every major deal you need for the next three years. So I just don’t think that’s a productive way to proceed.”

Meanwhile, the President isn’t exactly demonstrating a deep understanding of executive-legislative relations:

“I am fully committed to working with Congress to get this job done. And I don’t want to be disappointed by Congress, do you understand me?” he said. “Do you understand? Understand? Congress. I think Congress is going to make a comeback. I hope so.”

This is such a weird way to talk about a Congress controlled by his own party.

Winning was easy.  Legislating is hard.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Not the IT Dept. says:

    He’s deteriorating by the hour.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  2. al-Ameda says:

    This country is getting to be more and more stupid by the minute.

    Trump is setting this up as a choice between a completely unnecessary vanity wall and completely necessary disaster relief for millions of people.

    Yes, I know, Trump is trying to leverage this situation into getting his Wall (which to be fair and balanced, should be built around one of his Russian-financed resort properties).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  3. KM says:

    Since Texans get affected by this either way, why not poll them? Hey, do you want money to fix one of your biggest cities and moneymakers or do you want an ineffective moneypit er wall? Be sure to ask all those people still sopping wet and homeless how they feel about this. I’m sure it will go over sooooo well……

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  4. Moosebreath says:

    For all the times when Republicans cited Rahm Emanuel’s comment about never having a crisis go to waste, this is what he meant.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  5. President Comacho says:

    We were spending $2 billion a month in Iraq and Afghanistan for which we gained little to nothing. We can afford to fix Houston. Otherwise what the F is the point of those idiots in DC. An actual crisis occurs and we worry about money. Cheney invents a crisis and we can’t spend enough. It is looking more and more like the country’s best days have come and gone.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @KM: I know! Texas should hold a referendum on where they want to put our money. They can do this next week and all registered Texas voters can vote at their local precinct.

    Gas masks, waders, and snake bite kits not included.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  7. Electroman says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Careful. I’m pretty sure that rural Texas would back the wall, given that the flood victims aren’t themselves rural Texans.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. rachel says:

    @Electroman: Really? The opinion polls I’ve seen on what Texan’s think of Trump’s wall suggest they are mostly against it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. Mister Bluster says:

    “I am fully committed to working with Congress to get this job done. And I don’t want to be disappointed by Congress, do you understand me?” he said. “Do you understand? Understand? Congress. I think Congress is going to make a comeback. I hope so.

    This sluggard is so self absorbed that he truly believes that this human disaster is all about him. Why am I not surprised that the leaders? of the Republican Party do absolutely nothing to reign him in.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  10. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Electroman:There are approximately 60 Texas counties (roughly 23% of the land mass of Texas) and a half-dozen Louisiana parshes currently included in disaster declarations. Your assumptions about who is affected is wrong.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. KM says:

    @Gromitt Gunn:
    I think Electroman’s point was there are some in Texas who would place their immediate wants/needs/bias over their fellow Texans, especially if viewed through a city/rural or liberal/conservative lens. Sure, they’d say it sucks if you happen to be in the affected areas but the fact that Trump feels comfortable enough pushing this dichotomy means he knows he still has support. Say what you will about him, he knows what his people want to hear.

    I’d like to think that being Texan overrides any bias against being from the big city and it’s liberal tendencies. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t pushback over it and demands for the Wall to come first. The GOP is home to some strange folks lately…..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  12. Electroman says:

    @KM: This.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  13. teve tory says:

    @President Comacho:

    An actual crisis occurs and we worry about money. Cheney invents a crisis and we can’t spend enough. It is looking more and more like the country’s best days have come and gone.

    At the moment, the stupidest people with the shittiest values are in charge. But eventually gerrymandering and vote suppression won’t be enough for them to win.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  14. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    It cracks me up that all these small Government Republicans are standing in line for money.
    Human being are suffering and we should do everything we can to help them, Texan or not…but this is just rife with hypocrisy.
    Remember…this is the very same Governor who deployed the Texas State Guard to monitor a Navy SEAL/Green Beret joint training exercise taking place in Texas, in order to fend off an Obama takeover, because of he has a brain rotten with conspiracy theories. Now, all of the sudden, he can’t get himself enough Federal Government.
    Just another reason you cannot take as serious anything Republicans say.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Electroman: The rural Texans all along the border with Mexico have said most emphatically “NO!” Seriously, they do not want it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. Electroman says:

    @Gromitt Gunn: Actually I’m not making an assumption about the weather at all – I’m making a prediction, and it is one about human nature and viewpoints. only very loosely related to the weather at all.

    My prediction is that rural Texas voters are going to see this as a storm whose brunt was largely taken by urban Texans, not rural ones. There’s no prediction (nor assumption) on my part about whether that viewpoint is true, only that rural Texans will largely see it that way.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. Gromitt Gunn says:

    And what I’m trying to explain to y’all who aren’t from around here is that this is not a rural / urban thing, and trying to view it through that lens is giving y’all a fundamental misunderstanding of what’s going on. The national news is all “Houston” “Houston” “Houston” the way that it was all “New Orleans” “New Orleans” “New Orleans” after Katrina.

    You aren’t seeing that Aransas County ISD is closed indefinitely. The entire *school district* has shut down with no timetable for when it will resume. You aren’t seeing that La Grange is now part of the Colorado River, or that it is currently impossible to get from Navasota to Brenham without having to take an hour long detour. Or that Rockport is going to need to be rebuilt from the ground up.

    There’s a million stories you aren’t seeing, and many of them have nothing to do with Houston or Harris County.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  18. teve tory says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    Just another reason you cannot take as serious anything Republicans say.

    I look forward to some day in the future when the GOP really cares about anything other than giving the richest people more money. If you understand that the difference between a third-world country and a first world country is that the latter has redistribution, you understand that the GOP has been trying to make the US a third-world country for nigh on 40 years or more.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  19. An Interested Party says:

    Of course, Harvey illustrates…

    Do you know what else Harvey illustrates? The rank hypocrisy of Republicans, particularly Texas Republicans…isn’t it just amazing how so many “conservatives” in Congress were opposed to funding efforts to help people hurt by Hurricane Sandy but are now singing a whole different tune…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  20. MBunge says:

    That a supposedly intelligent person who has lived through the last 16 years of Republican behavior in DC can still consistently write as if Trump is the biggest problem makes me despair for the future of our species.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  21. wr says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: I think the governor and every other Republican in Texas should be asked if they have called for Texas to secede from the union within the last ten years, and if they answer yes give them a bucket and tell them to start bailing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  22. Not the IT Dept. says:

    You made sense there, Bunge. Keep it up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  23. Tyrell says:

    Here is my convoluted idea to get both. Build a wall that could be raised to prevent future hurricane surges and flooding in the Houston region. They have something like that over at Holland to keep the Atlantic out. Think of the jobs it would create.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  24. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Tyrell: You do know that Houston is not actually on the border with Mexico, right?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  25. al-Ameda says:

    @Tyrell:

    Here is my convoluted idea to get both. Build a wall that could be raised to prevent future hurricane surges and flooding in the Houston region. They have something like that over at Holland to keep the Atlantic out. Think of the jobs it would create.

    Yes but, would it create more dangerous and obsolete coal mining jobs?
    That’s all I care about.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. Tyrell says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: No, not what I was thinking. Not a border wall at all: a sea wall that can be raised to keep out the water when needed to prevent these devastating floods of the Houston region. They built something like that over at the Holland coast some years ago.
    An electronic, invisible wall would be more effective and cheaper between Mexico and the US.
    See: “Great Wall”, a movie about the Great Wall of China.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  27. Matt says:

    @Tyrell: You clearly have no clue about the details of the flooding in Houston. There is not wall you can build to keep the water out like in Holland. You’re comparing apples to stars…

    @Tyrell: There already is an electronic wall between the US and Mexico. There are also drones patrolling the area constantly.

    It’s almost as if you can’t be bothered to actually educate yourself on something before commenting about it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0