It took more than a month, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has finally returned from his vacation on Neptune and will allow legislation to end Trump’s government shutdown onto the Senate floor today for a vote. Yes, the two bills being introduced — one Democratic, one Republican — are almost certainly doomed to failure. Still, two DOA bills are at least a marginal improvement over the sound of silence we’ve been hearing while furloughed workers, federal contractors and the Coast Guard are selling their furniture to buy medicine and food.
The Democratic bill — a simple stopgap measure bereft of border wall funding intended only to re-open the government until February 8 — is doomed because the Republicans still hold the Senate majority, and they have once again chosen to stand with Donald Trump even as the ground crumbles beneath them. The Republican bill, a version of Trump’s gibberish “offer” last week, would fully fund the wall while providing some gossamer protections to the 700,000 “Dreamers” whose fate hangs in the balance with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Act. The GOP bill is also doomed, but for slightly more convoluted reasons.
First, the Supreme Court kicked the legs out from under Trump’s leverage on DACA by refusing to grant cert to the issue’s key lawsuit. As matters stand, the high court won’t take that case until at least the fall, and no ruling will be coming until 2020. “In the meantime,” reports Dara Lind for Vox, “the 700,000 or so unauthorized immigrants who came to the US as children and are currently protected from deportation will continue to be allowed to renew their protections and work permits.” Democrats don’t need to support Trump’s proposal in order to protect the Dreamers; for the time being, they are safe.
Second, the Republican bill needs seven Democratic votes to crack the required 60-vote threshold. Thanks to the strong guiding hand of Speaker Nancy Pelosi from the other chamber and in spite of Sen. Chuck Schumer’s less-than-electric minority leadership, the Democrats in Congress appear, by and large, to be willing to hold together against the nonsense proposals coming from Trump and the GOP. Because of that, the Trump bill can look forward to a bright future in a landfill with the rest of the garbage.
Around midday on Wednesday, various news outlets began reporting on a forthcoming offer from Speaker Pelosi and the House Democrats that is separate from the pending Senate legislation. The offer, not finalized as of this writing, would exchange reopening the government for an increase in funding for a variety of border security actions including “retrofitting ports of entry, new sensors and drones, more immigration judges and border patrol agents, and additional technology, among other measures,” according to The Washington Post.
Vitally, the new proposal offers not one single ducat for a border wall. It does, however, offer much of what Trump and his allies have been carping about, but don’t hold your breath waiting him to take the deal. Pelosi & Co. surely know this, so the offer may be little more than political positioning to counteract Trump’s DOA DACA proposal. In any event, Donald wants his wall, and that’s all there is to it. Getting this president to “Yes” on this issue is harder than pulling a tree stump off the bottom of a frozen lake, and be damned to the consequences.
As these are Democrats, there are exceptions to this impressive show of solidarity. That train is never late. “Give Trump the money,” Minnesota Rep. Collin C. Peterson told a Fargo radio station on Tuesday. “I’d give him the whole thing and put strings on it so you make sure he puts the wall where it needs to be. Why are we fighting over this? We’re going to build that wall anyway, at some time.”
Thank goodness a northern border conservative Democrat like Peterson is here to give those southern border folks the what-for on wall policy from 1,300 miles away. Peterson, who chairs the Agriculture Committee and has spent 15 terms slurping from Big Ag’s money trough, is also a founder of the Blue Dog Coalition. This right-leaning group is the successor of the “Boll Weevil Democrats” who supported Ronald Reagan and the segregationist “Dixiecrats” who came before them. All and all, not the kind of company you’d want a modern Democrat to keep.
In spite of the outgassing from collaborator Vichy Democrats like Representative Peterson, the far larger Democratic no-wall-money coalition is holding firm. This must continue no matter what Trump or his minions try to pull. We are at a significant inflection point not just for the Trump administration, but for the country and the world.
In the recent past, right-wing Republicans have, with the aid and comfort of McConnell, taken the debt ceiling hostage over the Affordable Care Act and the rest of the social safety net. At the end of the day, however, they did not follow through on the threats and their wrecker efforts by and large came to nothing.
Trump, with deliberation, intent and outspoken pride, has taken more than a million federal workers and contractors hostage, along with the entire national economy, food inspectors, domestic violence shelters, Native reservations, food assistance programs, probably your tax refund, the Secret Service and the damn Coast Guard. I have every reason to believe he will continue this willful disdain until he is stopped. Trump simply does not care about the pain he is causing; for him, the anguish of it all is nothing more than lubricant to grease the rails.
Should Trump succeed in this course, he will do it again and again and again. If the Democrats fold and acquiesce to his demands after he has deployed these incredibly dangerous tactics, we will not see the end of the current crisis, but the blossoming of a whole new one… and that new one may well be far worse.
If you give a mouse a cookie, goes the children’s story refrain, it is going to want a glass of milk. So it is with Trump, his border wall and his shutdown. Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats must hold the line. The consequences for capitulation are almost too grim to contemplate.