“I think the legislative path is just about cut off,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) lamented yesterday to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, but Donald Trump doesn’t. Graham told Wallace that he personally urged Trump to declare a national emergency and use Pentagon funds to build the border wall. Trump declined yesterday morning, so Graham now wants Trump to reopen the government for a brief period first:
A top Republican senator on Sunday said he asked President Trump to reopen the federal government at least temporarily but that the president first wants an agreement on border-wall funding, the sticking point in the longest partial government shutdown in modern history.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), a close Trump ally, said he spoke with the president Sunday and recommended the government be allowed to open for about three weeks to pursue broader immigration legislation. Democrats have been proposing a variety of funding options to reopen the government, including a stopgap funding bill for the Homeland Security Department. Mr. Trump at a White House meeting last week rejected reopening the government without a commitment for funding a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. …
“I tried to see if we could open up the government for a limited period of time to negotiate a deal, and the president says, let’s make a deal, then open up the government,” Mr. Graham said on “Fox News Sunday.” He added: “He’s not going to give in,” Mr. Graham said.
What’s the point of a three-week window of reopening government? Pelosi won’t give in on the wall, not with government open or shut. Ah, but what if Trump gives her what she wants on immigration? Graham told Wallace that Trump’s willing to make a grand bargain for a “wall-plus,” if only Democrats will negotiate in good faith:
GRAHAM: The plan is to do a deal. He is willing, in my view, to do wall plus. Funding for the wall that we desperately need that’s been done in the past. See if we can do a deal around the TPS recipients who are going to lose their legal status.
WALLACE: Those are temporary protected status. (CROSSTALK) Let me just state, temporary protected status.
WALLACE: People who came in from disasters.
GRAHAM: Thank you.
Yes, there are about 400,000. They are going to lose their legal status soon. He’s willing to extend that. The DACA recipients, they are all tied up in court but I think he would give them work permits for three years, one-time renewable if you could get wall funding.
I don’t want to speak for the president. I don’t want to lock him in, but I’m confident what I just described with a few other things would be a deal acceptable to the White House. And a lot of Democrats — and I’m just so frustrated — we can’t get in a room and hammer it out.
Graham’s kidding, right? That’s not even the deal that got floated a year ago, when the White House offered to sign off on a statutory version of DACA in exchange for $25 billion in wall funding. Pelosi isn’t going to give $5 billion in wall funding for a one-time work permit concession. At this point, even the full DACA-and-TPS-for-the-wall deal is unlikely to work, as Marco Rubio noted last week; too much political trench-digging has already taken place and hostilities are too high now. This has turned into a contest of wills, and no one’s willing to be the first to back down.
So how long will this last? Wallace says that his administration sources say the shutdown could last into February, and he asks Graham how much damage that will do. “Less damage than if we don’t fix a broken immigration system,” Graham replies. “The real damage is people coming across the border, selling drugs, killing Americans, that needs to come to an end.”
It doesn’t sound as though anyone wants a compromise, even though the deal has been obvious for a year — years, in fact. The only reason to re-open the government for three weeks is for political cover so that Trump can feel justified in abandoning the legislative path.
Trump’s reaction to this was predictable. “I’m not interested,” Trump declared at a press avail this morning. “I want to get it solved. I don’t want to just delay it. I want to get it solved.” Small wonder Graham’s feeling depressed these days.