Trump’s Border Wall Faces Its Last Stand
This month's budget fight is likely the last chance the President will have to get any funding for his border wall.
Jonathan Bernstein contends that President Trump has already lost the political battle for his much-vaunted border wall:
President Donald Trump has issued countless threats to shut down the government unless Congress approved money for the border wall. But Republicans in Congress are about to ignore him one more time by adding another two weeks to the shutdown clock. They’ll have until Dec. 21 to resolve differences and pass the final set of spending bills that were delayed on October 1.
After nearly two years in office, it’s now perfectly clear that this Congress won’t fund the wall and the next one — with the House led by Democrats — is even less inclined to do so. Trump’s chances at pushing through a signature campaign proposal have never been slimmer, a result of presidential weakness and internal conflicts among congressional Republicans.
it’s not at all clear that all 51 Republicans would be willing to vote for funding a border wall under any circumstances, much less that they’re willing to engage in a government shutdown fight over it.
In fact, what’s much more likely is that most House and Senate Republicans have no interest in taking on this battle at all right now. After all, voters just rejected their party after an election in which the president’s closing argument centered on the border. And Trump’s clout with Congress is at an all-time low. Even if the leadership wanted the confrontation, Trump wouldn’t be able to help assemble a winning coalition.
The two-week delay makes that obvious. As budget expert Stan Collender wrote, Republicans would push the spending bill through if they had the votes right now.
If Republicans do choose to shut down the government on Dec. 21, Democrats will only have to wait 13 days until the new Congress convenes and they move into the House majority. 2 Even if public opinion turns against the Democrats, which seems highly unlikely given that the wall is unpopular, the party surely could remain unified enough to drag things out that long and reap the increased leverage they would have beginning on Jan. 3. Especially since Democrats would be in the position of supporting any additional temporary measure to keep the government open while negotiations continued.
In other words, if they want to try to use a shutdown to force Democrats to go along with funding Trump’s wall, every day they wait makes their position a little weaker. I have no idea whether Trump realizes that or not, but two other GOP leaders most certainly do: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan.
So what appears to be happening now is that McConnell and Ryan are just ignoring Trump’s bluster, and moving ahead with the compromises they need to make to get out of town and finish off the necessary business of the expiring Congress. And Trump has had about the same success convincing a Republican-majority Congress to pay for his wall as he did getting Mexico to do it.
The odds of Trump getting anything other than de minimis funding for his border wall were made even lower by the fact that Congress decided to kick the budget can down the road to the Friday before Christmas after the business of official Washington was interrupted by the death of former President Bush and yesterday’s State Funeral and National Day of Mourning. Originally, the Continuing Resolution that Congress had passed prior to leaving town to campaign provided that the funding for the Federal Government would run out on December 7th. Because of the abbreviated schedule for this week, though, Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate decided to push the deadline to December 21st. This means that Congress will have to either pass a bill funding the government for the rest of the year or another Continuing Resolution that punts the issue into January for the new Congress, with a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, or there will be a government shutdown. Essentially what you see here is the leadership of both parties on Capitol Hill sending a message to the President that essentially says he’s not going to get the full funding for his wall that he wants and that whatever funding he does get will probably be the end of the road for the project.
Whether things pan out differently over the next two weeks will be an interesting thing to watch over the next two weeks. GOP Senators are planning on introducing a resolution that would provide as much as $25 billion in funding for the wall, but Democrats, fresh off their Election Day victories, are vowing to put up a fight. Incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are set to meet with Trump next week, but Pelosi has already ruled out one idea:
"No," Nancy Pelosi says when asked if she would consider "some degree of wall funding" if Democrats get a permanent solution on DACA, adding that "they're two different subjects."
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) December 6, 2018
It’s understandable that Democrats would take this position both because of their election victories and because this is basically the same deal they thought they had reached with the President at the start of the year only to see the rug yanked out from under them. Prior to the shutdown that occurred back then, the President had met with Schumer and Schumer came away thinking he had a deal that would have included both protection for DACA beneficiaries and some funding the for the border wall. Within hours after the meeting, though, the White House had rescinded the deal, and that led to the aforementioned shutdown. As Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer put it at the time, negotiating with this President is like negotiating with Jello. Even when he makes a clear and unequivocal statement on what h00e might accept in legislation, it’s become inevitable that the White House or Trump himself will walk it back. After the shutdown was over, as Congress sought to put together a budget deal, Trump again threatened a shutdown in February, but those threats were ultimately ignored. That appears to be happening again this time.
Whatever the outcome of these negotiations, it seems clear that whatever funding Trump does go for his wall this time around is likely to be the last of what he sees. The Democratic House that takes power in January is unlikely to be willing to make deals that include funding for the wall, and the Democrats in the Senate would likely filibuster any bill that included such funding. The President will no doubt demogouge