This isn’t as clever a message as the one Paul Rosenzweig suggested yesterday but it has the virtue of simplicity. Schumer’s question: If Mexico is picking up the tab…
…then why do Democrats need to approve wall funding? Go get it from Andres Obrador, who spoke to Trump yesterday and reportedly didn’t so much as discuss the subject with him. In fact, it was Obrador who asked Trump for money, specifically $5 billion for development in Central America.
The answer to that from POTUS is that Mexico will reimburse us for the wall in the form of trade. What he needs from Congress right now is seed money to get it going — a loan of sorts, with Mexico to pay back the principal with interest over time via the USMCA. Schumer addressed that in yesterday’s floor speech, though. If “a lot of wall has been built” already, as Trump claimed during his meeting with Pelosi and Schumer, then why is additional money now so urgent a priority that it requires shutting down the government to try to squeeze Democrats for it? Work on getting the USMCA ratified and then apply the benefits gradually towards wall funding. “Pay as you go,” just like Republicans are always saying.
Trump won’t go for that, though, because no one can figure out exactly what he means when he imagines converting trade benefits from the USMCA into wall funding. Did someone tell him that the deal will produce $25 billion in new tax revenue? Or is he reasoning that reducing the trade deficit with Mexico by $25 billion would justify an additional $25 billion in expenditures by the federal government for a pet project? Unclear.
It’s tough to fact-check a statement that is so bonkers, but here goes:
1. 95% of USMCA is the same as NAFTA
2. There is no additional tax revenue
3. Only “savings” is there is less biz uncertainty now that we have deal https://t.co/vGa9aXxsF6
— Heather Long (@byHeatherLong) December 13, 2018
Ah yes, who can remember that catchy call and response from every Trump rally?
Trump: what are we going to do?
Crowd: build the wall!
Trump: Who's going to pay for it?
Crowd: we are, but the costs might be offset by unverifiable savings from mild tweaks to existing trade pacts https://t.co/uvWpTFYlKA
— Robert Maguire (@RobertMaguire_) December 13, 2018
The other move Schumer makes in the clip below that’s of note is how he tries to redirect the “Trump vs. Dems” standoff into a “Trump vs. McConnell and the Republicans” standoff — which is destined to happen, just as soon as the House and Senate GOP make a token show of support for Trump’s agenda by voting for $5 billion in wall funding. That bill might pass the House but will be filibustered in the Senate, at which point Ryan and McConnell will have to figure out a way to get Trump to come off his number. Congressional Republicans are already nervous about him accepting responsibility for the shutdown to come on camera in the Oval Office a few days ago. And not just the backbenchers either:
“I don’t understand the strategy, but maybe he’s figured it out and he’ll tell us in due course,” said John Cornyn (Tex.), the No. 2 Senate Republican. “But I don’t understand it.”…
John Thune (S.D.), the third-ranking GOP senator, said there was no scenario under which he would be proud to shut down the government.
“It would not be good,” Thune said.
“It doesn’t help with the messaging because we’ve spent the last 20 years trying to figure out how not to get labeled with the blame for a shutdown,” said one Republican senator to the Hill of Trump’s new “blame me” approach to a wall shutdown showdown. Evidently the Senate GOP was all set to unveil a new “Schumer Shutdown 2.0” message until Trump blew it up. As I said yesterday, I don’t think a shutdown will do any damage to the party in 2020; the public’s memory is short. But it might do damage to Trump’s image among his own base if he picks this fight over his core issue and then surrenders on it. MAGA Nation will forgive him almost anything, but getting stared down by Nancy Pelosi over the wall, of all things, might not be part of that “almost anything.”
Exit question: Is this destined to end with a “DREAM amnesty for the wall” deal? Some Republicans want it. Some Democrats are (sort of) open to it. Some newspapers are excited about it. Trump himself has seemed interested in it at times in the past. What if it’s the only way out?