Will government — a part of it, anyway — grind to a halt on the Friday before Christmas over Donald Trump’s border wall? Cui bono, Sen. John Kennedy tells CNN’s Alisyn Camerota in response to that question. There are too many incentives on both sides to prevent a spectacle of petty incompetence and division from unfolding like holiday cheer … for pundits, anyway:
GOP Sen. John Kennedy says he thinks there will be a government shutdown over border wall funding. “President Trump does not look to me like he was bluffing” and Nancy Pelosi isn’t going to “agree to anything because she’s worried about her speakership,” he says pic.twitter.com/mShg9rlKL8
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) December 12, 2018
Both Trump and Pelosi are itching for this fight as a way to establish their intestinal credentials. Trump has made threats for the past several weeks that he wants a showdown over his border wall, apparently convinced that it’s a political winner. This morning, he reminded his Twitter followers that both Pelosi and Chuck Schumer backed Barack Obama’s deal with Iran, which cost 30 times more than the funding he’s asking to secure the southern border:
And for good measure, Trump added a more current event to the argument:
Remember, though, that a shutdown now wouldn’t affect the whole federal government. Most of the FY2019 budget has already passed. The outstanding agencies awaiting an appropriation bill are Homeland Security, Justice, and State. There’s risk for Trump in shutting down the two major agencies responsible for border security and prosecution of immigration violations, but there’s also an upside for Trump in that situation. Most people won’t experience any disruptions of a shutdown in these agencies, with one big exception. Parks won’t have to close, food-stamp payments will keep going, and local offices of federal agencies will mostly remain open. As shutdowns go, this would be Shutdown Lite … except, of course, where the federal government matters most — in national security.
TSA is the biggest wildcard here. If that gets shut down without Homeland Security funding, then so does the air travel industry. If Congress passes some kind of CR that funds TSA, then the rest of this will be seen as inside-the-Beltway nonsense.
The timing is good too, as Allahpundit noted yesterday. Trump’s down to the last few days of full GOP control of Congress, and we’re now two years away from an election. That’s about as good as it gets when it comes to standoff timing. But it’s also nearly impossible for Pelosi at this stage to “give an inch,” as Kennedy says. Perhaps she might be able to cut a deal after the vote for Speaker, but she can’t give a dollar until then.
So what can be done? When the shutdown comes on the 21st, both sides can afford to let it run for a couple of weeks as long as TSA continues to operate. Trump can have the Pentagon temporarily take over some duties as needed until Pelosi gets her speaker vote. At that point, she can announce a deal that addresses her “equities” while giving Trump what he wants. A DACA-for-the-wall deal makes the most sense, but if that’s it, people will wonder why Pelosi didn’t just go for that in the first place.