For party leadership that insists it won’t negotiate in a shutdown, they seem very interested in offering new ideas — to the media, anyway. James Clyburn became the second member of House Democratic leadership to “freelance” on the shutdown, offering to cough up the $5.7 billion Donald Trump wants … with one catch. He can’t spend it on a border wall:
The No. 3 Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives floated the idea of ending a partial government shutdown by giving President Donald Trump the $5.7 billion he seeks for border security with Mexico but through various means other than a wall. …
Clyburn’s offer is a significant monetary increase over bills previously passed by Democrats, which included only about $1.3 billion for this year in additional border security, with none of that for a wall.
“Using the figure the president put on the table, if his $5.7 billion is about border security then we see ourselves fulfilling that request, only doing it with what I like to call using a smart wall,” Clyburn said.
When is a wall not a wall? When it’s a “smart wall”! By “smart wall,” Clyburn means no wall at all. He wants to earmark the money for “drones, X-rays, sensors, and more border patrol agents.” The border patrol agents themselves want more barriers, however, because it makes their patrol and defense operations more efficient and effective. Drones might cover hundreds of miles of open frontier, but they don’t block entry, or better yet, discourage the attempts.
Still, between Clyburn and #2 Democrat Steny Hoyer, Trump’s opposition sure has gotten more chatty about negotiating. That would tend to negate the take on the shutdown by Aaron Blake, who sees Trump losing it badly:
Republicans are in almost the same position that forced them to cave those two times (if not worse). That doesn’t mean they will give in again, but it does suggest a dire set of circumstances has forced their hand before. To the extent they stick it out, it will be due to one thing: Trump’s stubbornness. And it risks coming at the type of political cost they very clearly feared in the past. …
What happened in each of those shutdowns? Republicans asked for something extra, and they used the shutdown to push for it. Then the American people blamed them for the shutdown — unambiguously — and they gave up.
Well, Trump doesn’t appear inclined to give up, so that may be one difference. For another, Trump offered a significant deal for Democrats — DACA and TPS extensions, albeit with a highly flawed vehicle for such — in exchange for his ask. Their refusal to negotiate seems to have them on the defensive, with unity breaking down even among Democratic leadership. Pelosi’s telling her caucus not to “freelance” while her #2 and #3 are going public with spitballed counteroffers. That suggests that Democrats don’t see Trump losing badly at this stage, but rather that he’s put them in a tough position where they have to start negotiating to end the shutdown.
Needless to say, Trump’s not going to climb down to take a no-wall deal, especially when he’s got Hoyer admitting that barriers are “part of the solution.” He’s going to keep pressing until Democrats do some real horse-trading.