Will “no wall funding ever” quietly fade over the next week? Roll Call’s Lindsey McPherson reports that the conferees on a budget agreement are “optimistic” about the chances of avoiding another shutdown by coming to a final budget agreement on Homeland Security along with several other federal agencies. Politico hears the same thing, and conferee Rep. Chuck Fleischmann called chances of another shutdown “nil, or next to nil”:
Asked in an interview on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” about the odds of another partial shutdown over President Donald Trump’s demands for border wall money, Tennessee Rep. Chuck Fleischmann answered that they were “nil, or next to nil.”
“In this situation there is no appetite on either side of the aisle and I think in either chamber for another partial government shutdown,” Fleischmann told host Steve Doocy.
Fleischmann also sounded optimistic on CNN’s New Day, but noted that the bill will have to get buy-in from the White House as well as the House and Senate. Fleischmann told CNN that Democratic appropriators know this, too:
.@RepChuck says that talks to avoid another shutdown have been positive: "We need to focus on our common ground … We need to lay all our cards on the table, and negotiate" https://t.co/JjrqWZRIhD pic.twitter.com/mQv3OEHF5b
— New Day (@NewDay) January 31, 2019
That brings us to McPherson’s report on the status of the talks, and the threat it could pose to the new House Democratic majority. It’s becoming clear that the package will include some level of funding for a border wall, and that might make it tough for House Democrats to swallow:
Details of the emerging deal are scant, but appropriators from both parties acknowledge it would include some funding for a physical border barrier. And that will be a hard sell to many House Democrats.
“The Republicans and the White House are saying they need barriers, wall, whatever you want to call it and that is an absolute objective, and we’re saying we want some other things,” House Democratic conferee Lucille Roybal-Allard of California said. “Like anything else, it’s a trade-off.”
Most Democrats are vehemently opposed to a border wall, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has said she’s staying out of the conference committee negotiations, has stated that won’t be part of any final deal. But in recent weeks, Democrats have shown a willingness to discuss funding for some physical barriers, namely fencing, in the interest of getting a deal.
And that may set up a war between progressives and moderates within the House Democratic caucus, even though two of the conferees — Roybal-Allard and Barbara Lee — are Progressive Caucus members themselves. That’s no accident, one Democratic aide told McPherson. Pelosi needed to give herself political cover on the inevitable compromise between her position and Donald Trump’s:
A Democratic leadership aide dismissed the progressives who don’t want to fund ICE or CBP as a “small group” and suggested Pelosi picked the conference committee negotiators she did for a reason.
“Pelosi is no fool,” the aide said. “Look at the liberals she has on the committee to give folks cover.”
Even a dollar for a border wall will be seen as a surrender by Pelosi — or more accurately the conferees, who also exist as a group to give Pelosi some distance from the inevitable. The flip side is how much lower will Donald Trump go from his $5.7 billion opening position and still sign the bill? Half? A third? Or will Trump see it the same way — that anything significant would amount to a big enough political win?
Pelosi better buckle her seatbelt. Trump will take House Democrats for a very bumpy ride on his victory lap, and Pelosi will get the blame for it within her caucus no matter how many buffers she puts between herself and the eventual outcome.