A follow-up to this morning’s post. You’ll note that nowhere in the tweets below does he explicitly say we need a shutdown before the midterms, which is what congressional Republicans are worried about. Maybe he’s being coy, touting a shutdown to please his fans while conveniently omitting his intention to postpone it until the winter.
But note how he opens: “I don’t care what the political ramifications are.” If that’s true, what’s stopping him from demanding a shutdown ASAP, in September? If border enforcement is more important than the midterms, then damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead!
…Border Security is National Security, and National Security is the long-term viability of our Country. A Government Shutdown is a very small price to pay for a safe and Prosperous America!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 31, 2018
So there you have it. Shutdown before the midterms over immigration. A death struggle between Trump on the one hand and Schumer and Pelosi on the other, with Ryan and McConnell stuck between them in no-man’s land.
Despite Trump’s recent public threats that he saw “no problem” in shutting down the government to secure backing for one of his key campaign promises, two officials said Trump recognized the political cost of a shutdown before the November elections and had assured staff he wouldn’t provoke a fiscal crisis until after Election Day. A congressional aide said the White House had sent a similar message to Capitol Hill amid widespread anxiety about a potential shutdown as Republicans face tough re-election fights…
The president is eager to stress immigration during the fall election, believing it will fire up his base. Republican leaders disagree, hoping they can avoid a high-profile display of dysfunction and focus their message on the GOP tax cuts and the strong economy…
Republican leaders believed they had an understanding with Trump last week when they met at the White House to discuss strategy ahead of the budget year that starts Oct.1.
“Republican leaders believed they had an understanding with Trump” are famous last words. I think Trump will be true to his word in this case and back away from the shutdown brink as we get closer to it in September, for the simple reason that he and McConnell have been largely in sync this year on the midterms. He hasn’t endorsed any fringey, unelectable populists in Senate primaries; even his pal Joe Arpaio has had to live without a Trump endorsement in Arizona. It’d make no sense for POTUS to follow the play-it-safe establishment playbook for electing Republicans by supporting boring mainstreamers in marquee primaries (or at least not opposing them) only to pull the pin on a shutdown grenade five weeks before the vote. In all likelihood, today’s tweets are just candy he’s tossing at supporters in anticipation of having to disappoint them two months from now by passing on a big border fight with Democrats.
…Unless, as the AP excerpt suggests, Trump really is sold on immigration as the magic wand that’s going to mobilize his base in November. That would mean a huge strategic fracture with McConnell and Ryan with the highest possible stakes, which seems unlikely. But if there’s any issue that could get Trump to do it, this is it. And remember, he’s not wrong to believe that immigration holds a special appeal to Republicans in this midterm. The polls bear him out on that.
Of course, there’s always a chance that this is kabuki being staged by establishmentarians *and* populists in order to avoid the unsexy nuts-and-bolts issues that each side occasionally pretends to care about:
It’s embarrassing that Republican leaders are again talking about putting off spending cuts. @POTUS’s “wall funding or shutdown” talk is distracting everyone from the bigger issue: that government spending continues to grow unabated, just as it did under the last administration.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) July 31, 2018
Here’s McConnell sounding a tiny bit less certain this week about the impossibility of a shutdown than he sounded last week. Continue those discussions, Mitch. By the way: The irony of having a shutdown fight with the left over immigration is that it’s likely to produce the same sort of limited compromise that’s been on the table for months, something like a “DACA amnesty in return for wall funding” bargain. There’s no way Democrats are going to cave on things their base views as hugely consequential, like chain migration, knowing that Republicans are likely to bear the brunt of public anger if the shutdown lasts more than a few days. He can squeeze wall funding out of them but almost certainly nothing more, especially with the left howling at Schumer and Pelosi not to give in during a test of wills. I hope he understands that going in.
.@SenateMajLdr on @POTUS' threat of a government shutdown: "We're gonna continue to discuss it with him and hope that in the process here we can achieve what he would like to achieve on the wall and also get these appropriation bills signed into law." pic.twitter.com/EPbazxh9PD
— FOX Business (@FoxBusiness) July 31, 2018