Solving Shutdown Crisis May Depend On What A “Wall” Is
Is it possible that the solution to the government shutdown is letting the President pretend he got funding for his border wall even though he didn't?
The New York Times notes this morning that resolving the government shutdown may end up coming down to how to define what constitutes a “wall”:
With a partial government shutdown stretching past Day 5, the impasse over funding a wall at the southwestern border has highlighted the debate over effective border security, with a breakthrough possibly hinging on a semantic argument: What is a wall?
Lawmakers will return to Capitol Hill on Thursday to resume negotiations over either a stopgap spending bill to reopen nine federal departments and several government agencies or broader measures to fund the government through September. But the White House and Democrats remain at odds over the $5 billion that President Trump is demanding for a wall, his signature campaign promise.
Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the majority whip, told House members on Wednesday that no votes were expected on Thursday. That signaled that the shutdown would almost certainly stretch through the weekend — and probably into the new year. More than likely, it will fall to House Democrats to pass legislation reopening the government when they take control on Jan. 3.
The president told reporters on Wednesday that he would do “whatever it takes” to ensure funding was provided for the wall he once bragged Mexico would pay for.
“We need a wall,” Mr. Trump said during a visit to American troops in Iraq. “We need safety for our country. Even from this standpoint.”
Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader who is expected to be elected speaker next week, told USA Today: “He says, ‘We’re going to build a wall with cement, and Mexico’s going to pay for it’ while he’s already backed off of the cement. Now he’s down to, I think, a beaded curtain or something. I’m not sure where he is.”
Democrats say they have little reason to negotiate. The administration has spent only 6 percent of the $1.7 billion allocated during the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years for physical barriers on the border, they said. About $1.3 billion was designated in 2018 for different types of fencing in areas that would have covered about 96 miles, but rising costs have shaved off 12 miles.
With so little spent, Democrats argue, Congress has no business more than doubling this year’s allocation. But a Republican aide said that all but $70 million of the money allocated in 2018 had been committed to border security projects.
Mr. Trump and his conservative allies are trying to paint their opponents as unwilling to invest in border security, while Democrats are working to draw a distinction between the current showdown and past border fights, when Congress approved billions of dollars in funding for hundreds of miles of fencing, barriers, drones and other measures to impede illegal immigration.
A wall “would be spending an enormous amount of money that would not achieve the taxpayers’ goal,” said Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey and one of eight senators who negotiated a bipartisan immigration overhaul that passed the Senate in 2013.
“There is not a one-size-fits-all solution — a wall, slats, whatever — and nobody who has ever looked at this question has said that that is the solution,” he added.
While a final decision has not been made, Ms. Pelosi will most likely seek a swift vote on the legislation the House spurned before funding lapsed: the Senate’s stopgap spending bill would provide funding through Feb. 8, according to a House Democratic aide familiar with the negotiations.
Because next month will herald a new Congress, the Senate will have to pass it again. And there is no guarantee that Mr. Trump will sign it.
“We are still open to discussion,” said Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and the incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. “I would say that the wall is the problem. Most people we talk to say the wall is a political answer to a problem that really requires a thoughtful, a more pragmatic response.”
Whether Mr. Trump signs the bill might depend on whether he and Democrats can agree to disagree on what a border barrier is called. Democrats have accepted fencing in the past. Mr. Trump has taken to intermittently calling his barrier a wall or “aesthetically pleasing steel slats.”
In the three years since he first started pushing the idea of a border wall, the President has changed his rhetoric about the border wall in several respects. The most notable, of course, has been the fact that he has largely abandoned the ridiculous idea that Mexico would pay for the wall, something that Mexico made clear that it would not do. Over time, that particular part of his “plan” has evolved into the recently proposed ridiculous idea that Mexico is “paying” for the wall by virtue of the new trade pact between the United States, Mexico, and Canada, a claim that analysts say makes no sense whatsoever. Additionally, Trump’s definition of what constitutes a “wall” seems to change depending on his own bizarre whims. In the beginning, he seemed to be clearly referring to a tall, thick concrete wall that literally stretched from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico,, a structure that would be some 1,500 miles long and would require construction in areas where thanks to the physical difficulties of the terrain and other factors, physical walls simply aren’t practical. More recently, though, Trump has been talking about a “wall” that consists of a variety of things, including simple repairs to existing fencing and a recognition that we don’t need to build a wall in the mountainous areas of the border region since trying to cross the border there is so difficult. And, finally, of course, he’s moved away from the idea of a concrete wall to a metal slat structure of some kind.
Taking this into account, it’s possible that a deal can be made without Democrats having to concede anything regarding a border wall per se if a way can be found for the President to be able to walk away from the table claiming he got funding for his wall even though he really didn’t. The beginnings of that possibility can be seen in the reports that were floating around Capitol Hill regarding funding for “border security” that would amount to somewhere in the range of $1.6 billion to $2.5 billion. These include proposals being floated by Vice-President Pence and incoming White House Chief of Staff and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney prior to the shutdown. Whether or not a deal can be made at that level is unclear, but if all it takes is finding language that lets the President pretend he got funding for his wall then perhaps this is an idea worth exploring.
No matter what kind of deal is made, trump is gonna crow about how he fleeced Nancy and Chuck. If N & C are smart they’ll let him, until the ink is dry on the deal at which point they will then reveal all the things trump gave up without even knowing he gave up anything and got only a “beaded curtain” in return.
They should not lead him to think he got anything, because it will just further legitimate the use of government shutdowns as a means of getting one’s way. Shutdowns need to be thoroughly discredited, and that’s not going to happen if the people who resort to them believe they got something out of one, even if it’s an illusion. It’s like ending a hostage situation by making the kidnappers think they got the ransom. Even if in reality they got nothing, it’ll only incentivize them and others to continue using hostages as a tactic. That’s all government shutdowns are—an attempt to hold the federal government hostage to force policy changes. Regardless of the outcome, it’s bad if anyone involved comes away believing the tactic itself is effective.
Chuck and Nancy know that a) Trump is a moron, and b) Trumpers will accept anything that Trump tells them (note that I didn’t say “believe”). So there is no upside in getting into a slap fight with the orange baboon over who got what. Let Trump say what he wants and let his deluded fan-bois think they are owning the libs by pretending to believe him. C&N should just ignore him but state repeatedly and clearly what really happened.
To be clear, I predicate this based on the fact that he will get nothing, except perhaps a tacit nod on calling already agreed upon Border Security funds by some other name, while making it clear in the legislation that it cannot be spent on a new wall.
How do you fool Hannity, Coulter, Limbaugh, etc.?
If Trump ever stops running circles around those two it will be because he wants to take a break, not because they tripped him up. (And again, that’s not to say that Trump is the awesome. That’s just how bad N & C really are.)
@OzarkHillbilly: But NYT will run front page stories for a month quoting Trump’s bragging (with a mention in the tenth graph of reality). Then they’ll do a quick bottom of page one story on Chuck and Nancy’s version, heavily quoting Trump. Followed a week later by a Maggie Haberman piece bemoaning how Trump drives the conversation.
Trump campaigned on a 30 or 40 foot concrete wall, estimated to cost X dollars, to be paid by Mexico. It will end up with U. S. taxpayers spending some fraction of X on some combination of improvements to existing barriers, new sensors and tech, new fencing, and some symbolic wall. And Trump will declare he’s getting his wall. Anybody who didn’t know this two years ago, raise your hand.
Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 by 2 points. The GOP lost the mid-terms by 8 points.
Obamacare is still the law of the land. Planned Parenthood is still being funded. Entitlements have not been touched. There will be no wall. And Trump had both houses of Congress. Now he doesn’t.
But you think Trump is running rings around Pelosi and Schumer? Riiight.
@Michael Reynolds: Exactly. There is no master plan. Any moron can break things. It’s like saying the guy who took a hammer to the statue of David ran rings around Da Vinci.
When Pelosi and Schumer give Trump a couple billion dollars so he can go down to AZ and take a few pics in front of the steel slat fence he’s calling a wall, you’ll still insist that Chuck and Nancy are running circles around him.
Seriously, if that’s what you’re saying now, after two years of straight getting clowned, that’s what you’re going to say no matter what.
You’re impressed by the clowning. People who actually understand politics are not. Trump is stuck at 42% . He’s been stuck at 42% for a year despite a strong economy and no new wars. He lost the mid-terms badly. And you think he bestrides this narrow world like a colossus. And yet you claim not to me a Trumpanzee.
You do realize no one here believes you, right?
“I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down,”
-donald j trump
Yep, he sure ran circles around them that time, didn’t he?
Oh, so people other than you?
So what? The president’s approval rating doesn’t matter unless there’s an opposition that can take advantage of it, and we don’t have that. Trump is stuck at 42% and Dems can’t do anything about it.
Democrats lost the Senate and made California even bluer, losing where you needed to win and winning where it doesn’t help you. Democrats lost the mid-terms badly and have been lying to themselves about a “blue wave” since it happened, just like you’re lying to yourselves about RBG’s health and the prospects for removing Trump from office via any other means besides beating him in 2020.
@Michael Reynolds: I think Pearce’s point is that The Democratic Party shouldn’t get cocky after the midterms, which, after all, the President’s opposition almost always win. Fair point. However, as I’ve noted elsewhere, he’s misdirecting it. He seems to have confused the comment threads on this blog, filled with their random collection of whiners, philosophers, and clowns, for The Democratic Party.
The out party doesn’t generally win with an 8% edge in votes, a 40 seat pick-up, a big gain of legislative seats, and a 7 governor pick-up, certainly not with no new wars and full-employment. With the economy we had in November and the fanatical support of Fox News and Vladimir Putin’s bots, Trump should be at 60% and the fact that he isn’t spells his inevitable doom. You know the last time Trump was net positive in polling? January, 2017. Since then not once. And we don’t even have the Mueller report yet.
Trump isn’t even fighting Democrats anymore, he’s engaged in all-out war against his own appointees. He’ll keep his racists and woman-haters and gay-bashers, but he’s not getting to 50% or even the 46% he got last time.
Trump is finished. He can tweet and rail and he can do damage, but what he cannot do is get above 42%. There is IMO zero chance of the GOP taking back the House in 2020, no better than a 10% chance of holding the Senate, and zero chance of winning the White House if Trump is running.
I just spent three days with my in-laws, who spent the whole time, talking about how amazing Trump has been as president. Here’s what they listed as his successes:
1 Finally got the economy rolling again. When I showed them the chart from 2009-2018, they claimed the upticks during Obama’s 8 years were manipulated and fake news.
2. Got unemployment down. Again, I showed them the unemployment from 2009 to 2018, and they claimed that during the Obama years, the govt was using “false numbers” to make Obama look good.
3. That he got the stockmarket to record highs. Same result. The Obama years, according to them, had, ZERO stock market growth, and Trump is solely reponsible for the record highs. When I asked them why the market was now tanking, it’s because… you guessted it… the deep state and Democrats tanking the market to make Trump look bad.
It’s delusional. It’s a world where black is white and white is black; where the sky is red, and not blue; where the sun rises in the east and Astronauts never landed on the moon.
lol …. THAT pretty much sums up the attitude of 7 of my 8 brothers and sisters, and my parents.
That’s under-performing if Trump is as hated and “finished” as you claim.
Six in 10 Dems prefer “someone new” in the 2020 race.
Talking to CNN, here’s Claire McCaskill:
Acknowledge the challenges facing the Democratic party and give up on this “Trump is done” BS. Trump is far from done and the Dems are hardly poised to inherit the earth.
First, Dems didn’t have the Senate to begin with. It simply remained in Republican hands.
Second, Dems were defending 10 states that Trump won in 2016, whereas Repubs were only defending 1 Clinton state (Nevada, which Clinton only won by a hair). That’s the sort of map where in normal times Repubs could easily have won a supermajority. Instead, they failed to unseat Dems in 6 Trump states, 2 of which Trump won by double digits; they lost 2 Trump states that haven’t elected a Dem to the Senate in decades; they just barely held on to a seat in deep-red Texas; and they didn’t come anywhere close to unseating a single Dem in a Clinton state, not even one who’d just been indicted on corruption charges.
Dems won 40 seats in the House–the largest Democratic shift since Watergate, the third largest swing for either party, and more than twice the average midterm shift in that period. They also picked up 6 governorships, including one in deep-red Kansas, while Repubs picked up none (except going from GOP-leaning indie to pure GOP in Alaska); they flipped six state legislatures; broke GOP supermajorities in three states; gained supermajorities in two; and overall flipped more than 350 state legislative seats.
If that’s your definition of “Democrats losing badly,” bring on more bad losses, please!
@Kylopod: Alternative facts say the DEMs got wiped out.
Congratulations. You just joined the august company of King Pyrrhus of Epirus, he of the Pyrrhic Victory, and coined the Pearcean Defeat: Another Defeat Like That And They’ll Own The World.
Which is why there were never any United States people in California until after roads were built, of course.
Winning elections is a start. Now work on this and this and so much more.
It’s a more extreme version of “second place is losing” mentality. Victory must be total, utter and unquestionable in order to be valid – anything gets poo-pooed to discredit it and downplay it’s worth. He’s the kind of guy that sees someone win big in MegaMillions but insist that because they didn’t take the Megaplier option, they didn’t really “win” and in fact lost money. He’d tut-tut at their foolishness and bemoan how if they’d just done something different, they’d be rich!
@Kylopod: And incidentally, there is a Senator from AL who is a Democrat. Of course, that’s only proof to our Mr P that Dem’s can’t figure out a manual can opener while Pres Trump’s team can make cold fusion.
No it’s more like I’m sick of being expected to praise Dems for winning elections and giving them a pass for NOT doing a damn thing for this country while in office.
James Pearce, Dec. 27:
James Pearce, Dec. 28 (after getting thoroughly walloped):
Nice job moving the goalposts.
Both Democrats and Republicans–using different approaches, of course–have tried to address these problems in systematic ways using the resources available to government for longer than you have been alive and I’m sure would welcome your suggestions as to where they might expend their efforts so as to improve outcomes. Pick whichever party whose philosophy you prefer.
I would help, but my considered opinion has evolved to “can’t be done without better people,” so I guess we’ll need to count on you.
@Kylopod: I don’t want to get into another debate over whether it was a “blue wave” or not. Dems lost seats in the Senate.
“Mixed bag” would be the term I’d use.
@Just nutha ignint cracker: I picked those issues because they are affecting the bluest parts of our country: the cities. Republicans aren’t stopping Dems from working on them.
A preference for dumb shit is.
If you don’t want to get into a debate about something, it’s usually a good idea not to make an assertion on the topic (your words: “Democrats lost the mid-terms badly and have been lying to themselves about a ‘blue wave'”), especially one you’re unable to defend when challenged.
The Senate is always a lagging indicator because only 1/3rd of the chamber is up for reelection in any year, and that skews the results. In 1914, the first year when Senators were popularly elected, Dems got slaughtered in the House (61 net loss) but gained 3 Senate seats. In 1986, when Reagan had an approval rating over 60% and the GOP barely lost any House seats, they nonetheless lost 8 Senate seats and lost control of the chamber–purely because of who was up for reelection that year.
It was recognized by early 2017 that it would be very hard for Dems to regain the Senate the following year simply because of the map they would face. The reason they were disappointed at all was because their chances greatly rose in the following year as a range of opportunities opened up (their upset in Alabama, the surprisingly competitive races in Texas and Tennessee) and the incumbent red-state Dems seemed to be holding their own far more than expected. Even then, they were still regarded as underdogs till the end. In light of the map the Dems faced, a net loss of merely 2 seats was a sign of their strength, not their weakness.
Again, to quote you from before: “Democrats lost the mid-terms badly and have been lying to themselves about a ‘blue wave.'” How can we take you seriously if you just change your argument at the drop of a hat without acknowledging any error or change of heart?
The 1986 midterm election happened in the middle of Iran-Contras. Senate losses for Democrats in 2018 are not a good indicator.
Given the state of the economy, historical norms would have had Dems winning a handful of seats in the House, maybe 8 or 9 at the outside. Instead they won 37+. And, again, given historical norms and the fact that there were 3x as many Dems as Reps up for vote in the Senate, the Dems should have flipped at most 1 seat and the Repubs should have flipped 2-3, which is basically what happened. So we had a Democratic wave in the House and a status quo election in the Senate. Those are the basic facts that an honest analyst would have to take into account.
So now Dennison is threatening to close the border if the Democrats don’t give him money for his vanity wall.
No doubt this is another win for el Cheeto, and a resounding defeat for Chuck and Nancy.
Someone should tell him closing a border is a serious matter, usually involving things like war, civil conflict, major crises, not a bureaucratic fight borne out of his own incompetence.
For instance, wanna bet a clean DACA bill would get far more than $5 billion for his vanity project?
To me, the debate isn’t whether there was a blue wave or not. There clearly wasn’t; Dems gained 40 seats in the House and all that other stuff, true. But they lost seats in the Senate. The Dems are actually weaker now, and that’s only going to be more apparent once this Congress is seated. Watch.
The debate to be had over the “blue wave” is whether to keep calling it that –despite the Senate results– or to take a more accurate and realistic view and call it something else.
Come Jan 3, will the government re-open as Queen Nancy takes the reigns? No. It will not.
The debate is not whether there was a Blue Wave or not. Having the control of the House of Representatives is not a small thing(That was all that the Republicans had between 2011 and 2015).
The debate that Democrats should be having is about how to increase their share of the vote among Males, Whites in general and in rural areas. You don’t control the Senate without winning rural states like North Dakota and Missouri.
If Democrats increased by relatively small margins their share of White Vote and among Men they would be competitive even in states like Mississippi and Alabama. That what has been trouncing Democrats(Note the Senate elections that they have lost in 2014, in 2016 and 2018), and Democrats relied on, for instance a senator from South Dakota and TWO from North Dakota the last time that they controlled the Senate.
Note that there is a thread being shared by Democrats on Tweeter debating about what women do if there was no men on Earth for 48 hours(Men are more than half of the voters). That’s a much larger problem than having or not having a blue wave.
@Andre Kenji de Sousa:
I would agree, but having discussed this with various progressives (not just here, but out in the wild too) I can tell you there is almost NO INTEREST whatsoever in appealing to males (who are “misogynists”), white people (who are “racists”), or rural people (who are “hicks”). Progressives are too invested in these stereotypes to abandon them. Even suggesting that these are stereotypes and they should be abandoned is considered verboten.
Are those folks prepared to deal with problems like this? Nope.
(Just a quick note. That piece was written by Bre Payton, a 26 year old staffer for the Federalist who passed away the other day after a sudden illness. Very sad. You know what else is sad? That a 26 year old conservative is taking the District to task over their “public art > the homeless” policy.)
@James Pearce: That should be the discussion in left-of-center and center-left circles. Any electoral win if you don’t have the half of electorate that happens to be male is going to be fragile, and in the United States you don’t control the Senate(and you don’t confirm judges) without rural states like Missouri, North Dakota or South Dakota.
Sure, Democrats won the House and they might win unified control of the government in two years. But even that could be a pretty fragile win. You can’t wait Republicans to nominate complete idiots to try to win elections.
The defeats of McCaskill, Heitkemp, Donnely and Bill Nelson, that sealed the Republican Majority in the SEnate, are illustrative.
@Andre Kenji de Sousa:
Utterly disheartening to see the reactions to what some of the departing senators are saying. Donnelly was talking about how “Medicare for all” doesn’t play well in Indiana and all these obnoxious Tweeps (who do not live in Indiana) are doing their “Bye Felicia” thing.
@Andre Kenji de Sousa: The Iran-Contra story broke shortly after the 1986 midterms were finished.
And I already explained to you why that is not a good indicator of whether there was a wave or not. Your response? Ignore all my arguments and simply declare your point of view to be self-evident.
I use the term “point of view” loosely here, because you have made two separate and mutually contradictory points: “Democrats lost the midterms badly” and “‘Mixed bag’ would be the term I’d use.” To paraphrase Chuck Schumer, arguing with you is like arguing with jello.
If the GOP had retained control of Congress, it’s a virtual certainty they’d have gone after the ACA again, tried to pass more tax cuts, made further attacks to the social safety net, and more. All that’s gone. Trump is now a legislative lame duck, just as Obama was after 2010.
@James Pearce: Exactly. And these are the same people that then talks about impeaching Trump or Brett Kavanaugh, that would requires two thirds of the Senate.