President Trump held a meeting with congressional leaders at the White House to see if some agreement could be reached to reopen the portion of the government that is currently shut down. Fox News reports the meeting didn’t go very well:
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and top House Republicans Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Steve Scalise, R-La., attended the meeting in the high-security enclave of the White House, which typically is used to handle sensitive information. The location meant that the conversation was not televised, unlike the volatile sitdown during which Democratic leaders talked back to Trump last month.
“We do have a crisis on the border right now. We had a violent mob rush yesterday — we had a challenge there,” McCarthy said outside the White House after the meeting, referring to the 150 migrants who were repelled by tear gas on New Year’s Day at the southern border. “The president has asked us to come back Friday, after the [House] leadership races, to try to get this all done.”
“I”m a little disappointed with, I would say, some on the other side,” McCarthy continued. “Once the secretary [of Homeland Security] started, Senator [Chuck] Schumer interrupted her, and they really didn’t want to hear it.”
Instead, McCarthy said, Democrats wanted to push their proposed spending bill without funding for the president’s proposed border wall.
Trump has invited congressional leaders to return to the White House on Friday to resume negotiations, but the signals coming from the White House and from Democrats right now seem to suggest neither side is willing to bend at this point. Sen. Schumer said the other day that the government could be reopened but only if border wall funding was abandoned. Meanwhile the White House is saying the shutdown could continue for weeks unless Democrats make an offer closer to the $5.6 billion Trump is seeking.
The NY Times is reporting that Trump “torched a compromise” which would have provided $2.5 billion for the wall:
President Trump on Wednesday torched a compromise that his own vice president floated with Democrats last month to stave off a government funding lapse, saying $2.5 billion in border security spending was insufficient as he renewed calls for $5 billion for his border wall amid a shutdown that has stretched into its 12th day.
He also rejected suggestions from Republican senators that negotiators revive a compromise that would twin border-wall money with legislation to shield young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children from deportation and grant them legal work permits.
Politically, the Democrats’ stance makes a certain amount of sense from their perspective. Democrats are counting on the media to back them up on the shutdown, as they always do. They hope Americans will come back from the holidays and start looking for someone to blame for the current impasse. Once that happens, their hope is that the tide will turn against Trump and he’ll be pressured to give up on the wall funding.
Here’s why I think Democrats might be mistaken about the political costs of this. The wall is a do or die issue for Trump. If he can’t get it done, or at least started, by 2020, one of his signature promises would be deemed a failure and could become a major problem for his reelection. This is the Trump equivalent of “read my lips, no new taxes” only in this case I don’t think he’s likely to reverse course.
All that to say, I don’t think Democrats are going to get the clean win they are hoping for out of this shutdown. Trump has said he’s willing to let this ride for a month if necessary and I think he probably means it. Maybe in a week or less, Trump will get blamed and take a hit, but if this goes on until February, at some point the public is going to express its displeasure with everyone involved including Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. Trump could actually make this worse by offering something like a DACA deal and daring Democrats to reject it. I guess we’ll see how far each side is willing to go but my guess is Trump will go much further than anyone expects.
Before the meeting with congressional leaders, there was a cabinet meeting where Trump was asked if there was a lower figure he could accept for border wall funding. He replied, “Well, I’d rather not say it. Could we do it for a little bit less? It’s so insignificant compared to what we’re talking about.” So it sounds like there may be a lower figure but so far Democrats are offering nothing.