A Whole New World Of Uncertainty
Trump Is Really Good At Creating Crises. He’s Not Really Good At Solving Them.
Just yesterday, Trump just seemed so over it; like he really wanted to get away. Even though he’d sworn never again to sign a budget measure that didn’t include “the wall”, and even though this is the last chance to pass anything in the President’s first term with a Republican-controlled Congress. The Senate passed a temporary budget measure; the still-Republican controlled House seemed on board with it. And everybody wanted to get home (or to Mar-a-Lago) for the holidays…
Then the President did a last-minute 180.
And that’s where we are at time of publication of this article.
Trump saying he won’t sign a bill to extend funding for the government past Friday unless wall funding is in it.
So House Republicans Thursday went ahead and added in Trump’s $5-billion wall funding demand and passed it. Now it’s back to the Senate where it needs 60 votes. Which means some Democrats would have to vote for it to pass. Which they almost certainly won’t. Which then means a shutdown. Unless Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is willing to forever change Senate rules just to get a wall done. Or unless Trump changes his mind again. Otherwise it becomes a pre-Christmas weekend full of finger-pointing and tussling over messaging.
Trump’s already started with that in today’s early morning Tweets: attempting to blame Democrats if there’s an eventual shutdown even though just a few days ago he said he’d be “proud to shut down the government” for a border wall. Maybe Trump thinks that would work in his favor… Other early morning Tweets cheerlead Republicans “I am very proud of you!” And the President also somewhat inexplicably asserts “I know tech better than anyone”, which is how he knows a physical wall is necessary. And he threatens he’d be willing to keep the government shut down “for a very long time”.
So what’s ultimately more important to the President? Holding out for the wall and almost certainly shutting down the government at the end of Friday? (Terrible optics if the President simultaneously jets as scheduled to his luxury resort in Florida for 16 days of vacation, which the White House says he’s not going to do.) Or signing a “clean” stopgap measure like the one already passed by the Senate, which keeps things funded until February, and doesn’t address “the wall” one way or another? And then he can hit the links right away…
Yeah, Trump tried to ameliorate things for his base by half-heartedly looking under the sofa cushions in the Oval Office to try to find enough change to fund his wall, but squeezing money from other cabinet departments, or having the military build it seems a little far-fetched at this point, especially considering it’s Congress, not the President, that determines what money goes where.
And his contention that Mexico would pay for it through its new trade deal with the U.S. makes no sense at all. Because if someone in Mexico buys something from me they wouldn’t have before, for say $10, then I get the $10, it doesn’t go to Trump’s “wall fund”. Yes, I pay income tax on that money, so a percentage of that would go to the government, and a percentage of that could go toward building a wall, but then only if Congress approves it. So we’re back to where we started.
Finally, his threat to Democrats that without wall funding there will be no infrastructure deal is classic Trump: trying to force Democrats to give him something he wants in order to get something he also wants. There is no greater proponent of a giant infrastructure package than Trump himself.
So the President’s really got three options going forward:
- Shut down the government and see how that goes. Hope Democrats cave under even the prospect of this happening.
- Give up on the wall/“steel slats” for now. Now that Democrats will control Congress in a few days, wall funding for the President will never happen just by him demanding it, especially because they know how important it is to him symbolically. More simply, why would it if a Republican-controlled House and Senate never really had the will to pass it? However, Democrats do seem willing to pay for other border security. So figure out a way to communicate that as a victory.
- Trade wall funding for something Democrats want, that’s not something the President also wants. Perhaps investment in cleaner energy, or the environment. The wall is still a pretty “harmless” item to give in on to get something really great. But if they deal, Democrats better get something really, really amazing.
One footnote: Trump is now apparently suggesting that aides and politicians stop referring to “the wall” as a “wall” and instead as “steel slats”, which he thinks will be more popular. You know, a “kinder, gentler” wall. At the same time we can’t picture a rally thronged with Trump faithful chanting “Build those steel slats!”