The good news: Congressional negotiators reached a deal late last night to finish the FY2019 budget — and it includes some funding for the border wall. The bad news: Sean Hannity may veto it. The Fox News host called it a “garbage compromise” as he covered Donald Trump’s rally in El Paso last night, and warned that Republicans who support the deal will have to answer to him:
“On this new, so-called compromise, I’m getting details,” said Fox News host Sean Hannity, referring to the tentative agreement reached by a bipartisan conference committee that would allocate roughly $1.375 billion for physical barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“1.3 billion? That’s not a — not even a wall, a barrier?” Hannity said.
“I’m going to tell this tonight and we will get back into this tomorrow,” he continued. “Any Republican that supports this garbage compromise, you will have to explain. Look at this crowd. Look at the country. Look at CBS News, even they say 72 percent of the American people want the heroin to stop, the cartels to stop, the gang members to stop, and those that wish us ill.”
What did Trump get out of the deal? Negotiators dispensed with the poison pill that Democrats tried to insert over the weekend, a cap on detention beds that would have forced a return to catch-and-release policies on a large scale. Trump didn’t get much for a border wall, however:
The deal includes $1.375 billion for 55 miles of fences along the border, compared with $5.7 billion Trump had sought for more than 200 miles of walls. The deal omits a strict new cap Democrats had sought on immigrants detained within the United States — as opposed to at the border. At the same time, it limits overall levels of detention beds maintained by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, although GOP aides said ICE would have enough money and flexibility to maintain its current detention levels and add more when needed.
To avert a shutdown, the deal needs to be written into final legislation, passed by both the House and Senate, and signed into law by the president.
White House officials were reviewing the terms of the deal, and Shelby said he was hopeful Trump would be supportive. But details of the compromise disclosed late Monday quickly came under fire from conservatives, raising the prospect of a backlash from the right that could ultimately render it unacceptable to Trump.
Trump didn’t follow Hannity’s lead when he sat down with Laura Ingraham after the rally. He said he’d only heard the outlines of the package briefly on his way to sit down with her, but that “a lot of things have changed.” Trump didn’t tip his hand on whether he’d support or oppose the package, however.
The White House will likely be taking the temperature of supporters first before landing on “sign” or “veto.” The issue of “fences” vs “walls” is likely not a deal-killer; Trump would ignore any such distinction and call the steel-slats design DHS has on the table “fencing” anyway, as he’s threatened to do for months. Fifty-five miles isn’t much, but it’s better than zero, which is what Nancy Pelosi promised to allow. It’s the kind of deal that’s designed to allow Trump to declare victory in principle, if not in scope.
Paul Mirengoff agrees with Sean Hannity, but also notes that the next shutdown will be worse for Trump if he refuses to sign onto a deal accepted by both parties in Congress. He thinks Trump has some limited options to get around it, but accepting it might put his base to the Trumpian test:
Trump could agree to the deal and then spend more than the appropriated money on the wall on the theory that this is necessary to meet a national emergency. But there may be a problem with claiming that spending $5 billion plus is needed for walling/fencing in order to deal with an emergency after Congress has passed, and the president has signed, legislation that devotes much less money to deal with the same crisis.
The Supreme Court might view an agreement by the legislative and executive branches to spend $1.375 billion for 55 miles of additional fencing as inconsistent with a claim that there will be a national emergency if the president doesn’t spend $5.7 billion for more than 200 miles of walling. The Supreme Court is understandably reluctant to overturn the outcome of the political process on issues such as how much money should be devoted to combating a particular problem.
Trump’s other option is to accept the deal and declare victory. Swing voters wouldn’t accept the declaration but might well be relieved that Trump compromised and the government remained open.
Would Trump’s base agree that Trump has won? I don’t know. Trump once said his supporters would continue to back him even he shot people “in the middle of Fifth Avenue.” Accepting the bipartisan deal reportedly being reached would put the thinking behind this claim to the test.
The other option would be to redirect money from DHS to build more border barriers, which might not require an emergency declaration. The White House has been looking into options for redirecting funds short of that step; if they’ve found any options, look for Trump to have a couple of “pen and phone” moments of his own. (Also look for both parties to swap their reactions from when Barack Obama threatened the same thing, and then followed through on DACA and DAPA.)
There’s a third option, but it’s risky for Republicans. If the deal gets 67 or more votes in the Senate and 290 or more in the House, a veto won’t matter — Congress will simply override it. That will take a number of Republican votes to pull off, but it would allow Trump to refuse to sign the bill and still avoid another shutdown. That’s a scorched-earth option, though; it makes Trump really look like he lost, and it puts Republicans who vote for the override in a lot of jeopardy in 2020.
It’s certainly not a great deal, but it’s probably best for Trump to declare a victory on principle and sign off on it. It does force Pelosi to part with barrier funding, which will stick in her craw just as the limitations to that funding will stick in Trump’s. That may be good enough for most Trump supporters, even if it won’t be good enough for Hannity or Ann Coulter.