Yeah, I had an inkling that maybe it didn’t go well.
How nasty was it? As you’ll see below, Pelosi walked out afterwards and told reporters regarding federal workers missing their paychecks that Trump “thinks maybe they could just ask their father for more money. But they can’t.” I wonder whom she had in mind with that comment.
I don’t know why they’re still meeting in the first place. What’s to discuss? Trump won’t budge on the wall, Democrats won’t budge on not funding it. The only face-saving way out is him declaring a national emergency, the government re-opening, and the parties fighting it out in court. Let’s get on with it. Besides, although it’s garbage from the standpoint of basic civics, it’s good politics for both sides. An emergency declaration lets Trump declare victory unless/until a court blocks his attempt to seize Pentagon funding for the wall. “I told you I’d fight and I did,” he’d say. The only thing truer to his MAGA-strongman image than building the wall is building the wall with the military via executive decree. Populists will love it. And if he does end up losing the court battle, that’s okay. He’ll demagogue the courts and say that it just goes to show how important it is to reelect him in 2020, so that he can keep filling the judiciary with better judges.
Democrats will enjoy an emergency declaration too. They’ll also be able to say that they didn’t cave and will spend weeks to come attacking Trump for executive overreach. This line of criticism will prove fruitful as well:
Mr. Trump also could tap money by delaying the construction of planned overseas family-housing units, medical improvements to hospitals and the building of new ambulatory care centers. He could also divert funds from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“If you’re taking away money from what the military needs in order to protect our country to build a wall—and don’t forget that wall won’t go up tomorrow, it will take years to be able to build a wall—in the meantime our military will be weakened,” said Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D., Calif.), who leads the Homeland Security panel of the House Appropriations Committee.
Any deficiency in military budgets of any kind will be blamed on him seizing money for the wall from an agency that could have applied those dollars to better ends. They can hold hearings about this in the House to embarrass Trump too — an Armed Services Committee hearing to discuss the impact of lost funding on readiness, for instance, or a Judiciary Committee hearing with handpicked legal experts questioning Trump’s constitutional power to seize funding via emergency decree.
Thus, my hot take: Today’s meeting actually was productive inasmuch as it laid bare how pointless further negotiation is, Mike Pence’s rote recitation of talking points afterward about coming to the table notwithstanding. It’ll accelerate the end of the shutdown by convincing Trump to go ahead and declare an emergency. Sounds like just what the doctor ordered for federal workers.
One other thing. I’m continuously surprised by how feeble some of the Democratic arguments of their position are. All Schumer can do here is affect a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger whinge about Trump’s behavior. They can’t announce their true motive — “we want to spite Trump at all costs” — but they have two points in their favor that they could be hammering. One is that they just won a national election decisively in which the issue of immigration was heavily litigated. If they wanted, they could point back to Merrick Garland and try to turn the tables on GOPers: “You said the 2016 election was about which party should fill the Scalia vacancy, we say the 2018 election was about whether there’s a crisis at the border that requires a wall. The people have spoken.” Or they could try a pure process argument: “We refuse to let government funding on which so many Americans depend be used as leverage for a battle over some policy priority. Whether it’s the wall or anything else, we won’t participate when federal workers are being taken hostage economically.” That would allow them to dodge questions about why they won’t just give Trump a measly $5 billion already. It’s not about the wall, they could say, it’s about ending this terrible trend of using shutdowns as negotiation leverage. Oh well.