Consider this confirmation of Lindsey Graham’s reason for gloom, and an indication that we’re in for a long haul on the shutdown. Despite floating the possibility multiple times last week, Donald Trump insisted today that he’s “not looking to do” a declaration of emergency to build his border wall.
President Donald Trump on Monday appeared to rule out — at least for now — declaring a national emergency to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, setting aside one of the White House’s leading options for ending the 24-day partial government shutdown.
“Now I have the absolute legal right to call it, but I’m not looking to do that,” Trump told reporters as he departed the White House. …
The president’s Monday comments are the latest indication that there is no end in sight to the shutdown, which is now the longest in U.S. history. Both sides have dug in, with Trump demanding more than $5 billion for the wall and Democrats insisting that a wall is expensive, unnecessary and “immoral.” As of Monday morning, there were no signs of a pending compromise, even after many federal workers missed their first paycheck on Friday.
With an emergency declaration, at least there would be no need for the shutdown, as the fight would move to the courts. Trump and his allies seem less than thrilled with those prospects, and for good reason. He may well prevail, but the fight itself would likely run so long as to make it impossible to get much built before the 2020 election. And if Trump fails to win a second term, this will all have been for nothing.
So it’s on with the partial shutdown, at least for a while. As travelers begin finding delays at TSA checkpoints, Trump dunked on Democrats who decided to go offshore for their strategy sessions — even if leadership stuck around the Beltway:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2019
From the White House, Trump argued that he alone was ready to negotiate, noting that a group of House and Senate Democrats were touring hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.
“A lot of the Democrats were in Puerto Rico celebrating something. I don’t know, maybe they’re celebrating the shutdown,” Trump said.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer were not on the trip to Puerto Rico. Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill tweeted Monday: “Speaker Pelosi has been in DC all weekend working from the Capitol.”
That’s a swing and a miss on that score, plus it overlooks why Democrats chose to go to Puerto Rico. One plan for using funds in an emergency declaration would have the Army Corps of Engineers redirect funds already allocated for disaster recovery in Puerto Rico, as well as several other states. They will likely highlight the unfinished work on the island in case Trump follows through on his threat, so it makes sense to gather as much information and optics for that fight. That may be another reason for Trump to get skittish about using the emergency-declaration route.
Democrats are also digging in their heels on the shutdown. Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, called the shutdown a form of hostaging:
Democrats and their allies are concerned that if party leaders cut a deal with President Donald Trump on wall funding, it would set a precedent for more rounds of dangerous brinksmanship in the months and years to come.
“If this shutdown that’s been initiated by the president works as a tactic to get a portion of his wall, he’ll do it next time,” Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, said Friday on the Senate floor. “That’s why the age-old principle is you don’t negotiate with hostage-takers. Why? Because if you do, the next time they’ll do it again.”
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-California, who will likely write the next Homeland Security appropriations bill in her chamber, said she “absolutely” expects Trump would trigger additional shutdowns as a bargaining chip if Democrats make a deal with him on wall funding now.
That’s not an irrational fear — although Republicans could have said the same thing when Chuck Schumer initiated the previous shutdown to get Trump to cave on DACA funding. The solution now, however, is the same as the solution then: trade DACA and TPS for the full $25 billion of wall funding and end the necessity of standoffs for either side. Or build an even bigger compromise on immigration reform that addresses the status of current illegal immigrants, visa reform, e-Verify, and all other issues.
Thus far, though, both sides think they can win it all. So in the words of Bette Davis, buckle up: