Signs Of Progress On Ending The Shutdown? Maybe, Maybe Not

With Democrats making a new proposal and the President set to speak later today, there could be movement on ending the government shutdown. I wouldn't be too optimistic, though.

With the Federal Government shutdown entering its twenty-ninth day, there are at least some signs of movement on both the part of Democrats in Congress and the White House, with the President set to deliver what he’s calling a “major announcement” this afternoon regarding the shutdown:

WASHINGTON — House Democrats have added more than $1 billion in border-related spending to a package of funding bills that would reopen most of the government, even as President Trump said he would have a “major announcement” on Saturday about the border and the shutdown stalemate.

Both sides’ actions were the first indications of possible movement over the shutdown after a week of inertia and harsh words between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Mr. Trump. That conflict culminated when the president, responding to Ms. Pelosi’s request that he postpone his State of the Union address, announced on Thursday that he would not authorize the use of a military plane to fly her and other members of Congress to Afghanistan to meet with American troops.

Ms. Pelosi said Friday she was postponing the trip after the White House leaked her alternative plan to use a commercial airline because she had been advised it was too dangerous.

“Why would Nancy Pelosi leave the Country with other Democrats on a seven day excursion when 800,000 great people are not getting paid?” Mr. Trump asked on Twitter before Ms. Pelosi’s office had announced the postponement. The trip had actually been scheduled for six days, departing late Thursday and returning on Tuesday.

The proposal to include more spending on border measures is scheduled for a vote next week, according to two senior Democratic officials. The plan reflects a shift in strategy by congressional Democrats, who have maintained that they would not give the president a counterproposal until he drops his insistence on a wall and signs legislation to reopen the government. It is an attempt to rebut Mr. Trump’s repeated portrayal of Democrats as opponents of border security and their denunciation of his wall as an embrace of open borders.

About half the money, $524 million, would be for additional infrastructure at ports of entry on the border, one Democrat said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the plans have not been formally announced, while $563 million more would be inserted to fund 75 immigration judges, who adjudicate the claims of migrants who make asylum claims at the border.

The funds were incorporated into a package of six spending bills that House and Senate Republicans and Democrats agreed to last year, and which cover funding for all the closed portions of the federal government except for the Department of Homeland Security.

Democrats are also considering a new funding bill for the department, which has $1.3 billion allocated for border security. The proposal would include additional border protection measures they have endorsed, such as more personnel and scanning technology to intercept illicit drugs.

It is far from clear whether the strategy will lead anywhere given Mr. Trump’s demand that any such measure must include money for his wall. Over the past two weeks, the House has passed an array of bills to reopen the government, including several Republican-drafted measures, only to be blocked by Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, who says he will not bring up any bill the president will not sign.

But the ideas amount to a tacit acknowledgment by Democrats that, even as they criticize Mr. Trump’s tactics and demands in the shutdown fight, they have largely allowed him to define the terms of the debate on border security, and that they must be more effective in articulating their own position on the issue.

“People want to make sure that it’s clear that the Democrats do stand for border security, and not allow the president to determine how we talk about it,” said Representative Ro Khanna, Democrat of California. “We can’t cave to his vision for a wall, because of everything that it represents, but we also want to show that we’re for something.”

As things stand, it’s as unclear where things stand and much will depend on what the President has to say this afternoon during his announcement. When he initially tweeted what amounts to an unusual Saturday afternoon statement, there was some speculation that he would use the occasion to follow through on a strategy that it previously appeared he had abandoned, namely the declaration of a “national emergency” to get his wall built. Subsequent reporting, though, seems to suggest that he will not do this and that, instead, we’ll see him put down some kind of a challenge to Democrats that involves another proposal to open the government. Most likely, though, it will end up being something akin to what we’ve already seen from the White House, and that the rhetoric will be similar to the Oval Office address earlier this month that amounted to pretty much nothing and, of course, did nothing to reopen the government. At the same time, it’s hard to see the latest move by the House of Representatives causing Trump to move away from his hardline position and it’s hard to see what the President can offer that would cause House and Senate Democrats to move off of theirs.

In any case, since it’s unlikely that whatever the President proposes will be sufficient for Democrats, and that it’s clear that what the Democrats are proposing will not be sufficient for the President. Therefore, the question then becomes whether these new proposals will themselves be sufficient for the resumption of negotiations that could actually lead to a deal that could end the shutdown. Given how things have gone so far, I’m not at all optimistic, but I suppose anything is possible.

Update: Axios is out with details on what the President is apparently going to propose today:

Details: The offer is expected to include Trump’s $5.7 billion demand for wall money in exchange for the BRIDGE Act — which would extend protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — and also legislation to extend the legal status of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, according to a source with direct knowledge.

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  • Jared Kushner and Mike Pence have led the crafting of this deal and the negotiations with members, according to White House officials.

The backdrop: A source privy to the negotiations told me the inflection point for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was the letter from Nancy Pelosi telling Trump not to deliver the State of the Union. McConnell had been saying all along that Pelosi and Trump needed to negotiate because one needed to put a bill on the House floor and one needed to sign it — two people with singular power.

  • But after Pelosi’s letter, the source said, it became clear to McConnell she was “never going to get off her position and some other spark needed to happen.”

McConnell told the president that it was his view that Pelosi was never going to move. She would and could not negotiate on border funding because her caucus, and Trump needed to be the one to put something forward he would sign so that McConnell would have the presidential backing to bring it to the floor.

  • McConnell also encouraged Trump to make the offer tantalizing to Democrats; it couldn’t be something that only Trump would sign and Republicans would support, but something that could win over some Democrats.

Will this be enough to jumpstart the negotiations? First, we’ll have to wait to see if this is indeed what Trump proposes, then we’ll need to see how Democrats react to it.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Congress, Deficit and Debt, Donald Trump, Politicians, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    Waiting to see if the President of the United Stares, in an Oval Office address, will do something big, bold, and stupid or just deliver an ill conceived nothing burger. Gawd I miss no drama Obama.

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  2. CSK says:

    @gVOR08:

    I believe you meant to say nothingberder.

  3. Michael Reynolds says:

    The person responsible for this mess isn’t Trump, it’s McConnell. Trump can’t be held responsible, he’s a moron, but McConnell isn’t a moron, just cowardly, weak and devoid of integrity.

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  4. James Pearce says:

    The offer is expected to include Trump’s $5.7 billion demand for wall money in exchange for the BRIDGE Act — which would extend protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — and also legislation to extend the legal status of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, according to a source with direct knowledge.

    They shut down the government for a month for that?

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  5. Moosebreath says:

    @James Pearce:

    “They shut down the government for a month for that?”

    You’re right, if Trump were willing to agree to that, he should have never shut the government down. On the other hand, just last week, you were telling us that getting any concession at all from Trump was un-possible and Pelosi should give Trump whatever he wants before he breaks the country.

  6. Sleeping Dog says:

    Trumps offer, give me what I want and I’ll extend, but not resolve the hostage crisis, DACA & TPS.

    Offer to grant DACA subjects citizenship and then the impasse can be resolved.

  7. James Pearce says:

    @Moosebreath:

    On the other hand, just last week, you were telling us that getting any concession at all from Trump was un-possible and Pelosi should give Trump whatever he wants before he breaks the country.

    What is the concession?

    (If Pelosi agrees to this deal, Trump gets exactly what he wants and gives up very little.)

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  8. Moosebreath says:

    @James Pearce:

    “What is the concession?”

    Read it again (if you need help with any of the words, let us know):

    “The offer is expected to include Trump’s $5.7 billion demand for wall money in exchange for the BRIDGE Act — which would extend protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — and also legislation to extend the legal status of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, according to a source with direct knowledge.” (emphasis added)

  9. James Pearce says:

    @Moosebreath: Re the Bridge act:

    The BRIDGE Act would not provide a pathway to U.S. citizenship. It only would allow people who are eligible for—or who already have—DACA to receive work authorization and provisional protected presence for, at most, three years.

  10. Moosebreath says:

    @James Pearce:

    Was Trump willing to sign the Bridge Act on his own? No. Therefore, it is a concession.

    Whether the concession is large enough to get the Democrats on board is another issue. But as you were recently pounding the tables saying the Democrats were not going to get anything and needed to given Trump everything he asked for and more, saying this is too little to make it worthwhile is just pathetic.

  11. James Pearce says:

    @Moosebreath:

    Was Trump willing to sign the Bridge Act on his own? No. Therefore, it is a concession.

    It’s not a concession. Trump gets all of his wall money and the Dems get something they don’t really want and didn’t even ask for.

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  12. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Sleeping Dog: I, too, see this “concession” more along the lines of “give me my money and I’ll keep the Dreamers hostage instead of killing them.” Yes, it is a concession–there are a lot of Republicans against even keeping the Dreamers for hostages in the “just kill ’em and get it over with to show we mean business” sense–but as concessions go, it has too much of a “heads I win, tails you lose” feel to me. Where I will depart from you is that I will allow the Democratic Caucus to pick the hill they die on.

    For me, the shutdown seems to be the last stand; if they disagree, I’m fine with it. The shutdown could kill the GOP as we know it. Where I differ from others I have debated this point with is that I neither know nor care about what the power vacuum of the GOP in tatters pulls into its place. I do realize that’s bad politics, though and that “everyone kills Hitler on their first trip.”

  13. JohnMcC says:

    Is the government funded and operating? If NO, forget you.