The sudden end to the shutdown last Friday left a number of unanswered questions, the most pressing of which was this: What happens if Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on a budget deal by February 15th? Do we go back into a shutdown, or does Donald Trump issue an emergency declaration to unilaterally get his border-wall funding? A new poll from Morning Consult shows a majority of Americans won’t like either of those two outcomes:
“So let me be very clear: We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier,” [Trump] said during a Jan. 25 speech from the Rose Garden. If Congress doesn’t allocate funding, he threatened to either shut down the government again when funding lapses after Feb. 15 or to declare a national emergency at the border in order to circumvent lawmakers’ power of the purse and begin construction of the wall.
A new Morning Consult/Politico survey conducted Jan. 25-27 finds most voters would prefer he did neither: Fifty-three percent of respondents in the poll of 1,997 registered voters said Trump should not shut down the government or declare a national emergency if lawmakers don’t fund his wall, while a quarter of voters (24 percent) said he should declare an emergency. Only 9 percent said Trump should shut down the government.
So much for political leverage. A threat of action with support from only 9% of the electorate is a bluff; pursuit of action with only 9% support is political suicide, especially with such a high-profile tactic. Even among Republicans, only 20% want another shutdown if Trump doesn’t get his wall funding, hardly a mandate for action.
What about the emergency declaration? Forty-seven percent of Republicans want Trump to go that route, the plurality from the choice of options, but Republicans are fairly isolated on that choice. Only 21% of independents support it, with 54% preferring that Trump neither shut down the government nor issue an emergency declaration. That’s almost identical to the overall results. Democrats, of course, go for no action by 82%, with another 11% having no opinion and the other seven percent split between shutdown and emergency declaration.
At least Trump might be making some headway on the expectations-setting game. Republican voters were pessimistic at the beginning of the shutdown that Trump would get his $5.7 billion, and they’re even less confident now:
Still, Trump manages to keep his lead over Democrats on border security, although at 42/36 it’s getting pretty thin. Among independents the gap is wider but the level lower, 36/26. In the suburbs, it’s 42/38, within the margin of error, which is not exactly a good sign for 2020. Trump nevertheless warned negotiators that they’d better be discussing how he gets his border-wall money, or else:
If the committee of Republicans and Democrats now meeting on Border Security is not discussing or contemplating a Wall or Physical Barrier, they are Wasting their time!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 30, 2019
Notice that Trump didn’t mention the dollar figure. Right now, Senate Republicans are hoping to get him something to allow Trump to declare victory, but it’s not going to be easy:
Republicans’ starting point for talks is $5.7 billion for the border wall, but they are aware that in a negotiation with Democrats they will end up with a lower number.
“I think it’s going to have to come down if we’re actually looking for a true compromise,” Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said. “Both sides are going to have to give.”
Two senior GOP Senate aides said the committee members would push for the $5.7 billion figure, but know that they will have to compromise on the details of how funds are allocated as Democrats are firmly against a border wall but are willing to talk about what one of the aides called “the gray area of border security where technology and steel fences can be called different things” by each party as they “try to save face.”
Although Democrats have remained steadfastly opposed to funding Trump’s wall, several have indicated openness to border barriers of some kind in recent days, which Republicans viewed as a positive sign and potential opening for compromise.
How much would Trump need to declare a win? Would half suffice? Given the polling numbers after the shutdown, that might be miraculous.