Trump, Daines to McConnell: Time to go nuclear on the border wall; Hatch: No, it's not

Why not? I’m sure Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer are very happy with the consequences of their nuclear detonation in 2013. Donald Trump called on Mitch McConnell again to eliminate the filibuster on legislation in order to fund his border wall, part of a lengthy Twitter broadside. This message came at the end of the string:

President Donald Trump on Friday teed up an expected Senate vote on a stopgap government spending measure that includes the funds he sought for his border wall — pressuring Republicans to fight hard for the bill while placing the blame for a possible shutdown squarely on Democrats.

“Senator Mitch McConnell should fight for the Wall and Border Security as hard as he fought for anything. He will need Democrat votes, but as shown in the House, good things happen. If enough Dems don’t vote, it will be a Democrat Shutdown!” Trump tweeted.

The measure, which passed the House on Thursday night by a 217-185 vote, includes more than $5 billion for the president’s long-promised wall on the U.S. border with Mexico.

This time, however, at least one member of McConnell’s caucus endorses Trump’s proposal. Steve Daines (R-MT), who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, tweeted out his support for the nuclear option to pass the House bill that includes funding for the border wall:

Sen. Steve Daines, a member of the Appropriations Committee, is floating using the “nuclear option” to effectively change the Senate’s rules to make it easier to agree to the latest House-passed spending bill that provides in excess of $5 billion in funds for the wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. …

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has long said the support does not exist for extending the simple-majority threshold to limit debate to the legislative calendar, and back in January a senior Senate GOP aide said the votes did not exist within the Republican Conference for such a move.

Er … good luck with that. McConnell barely has a majority now and couldn’t afford to lose a single Republican vote for such a rule change, even if he wanted to do it. Let’s do a quick whip count. Which of these would vote to wipe out the filibuster so that Trump can get a political victory on the border wall — Jeff Flake? Bob Corker? Susan Collins? Lisa Murkowski? McConnell could lose one of them and get Mike Pence to drop in, but he can’t lose any more than that and make this rule change succeed. Flake and Corker in particular would almost certainly come back to the Senate to vote against just to spite Trump.

Of course, McConnell will have two more votes in the next session of Congress and won’t have to deal with either Flake or Corker. However, Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats will be in charge of the House, and the bill that Paul Ryan passed yesterday will die at the end of this session. A rule change next year to eliminate the filibuster won’t do McConnell or Trump any good at all.

McConnell’s smart enough not to want to do it anyway. He’s looking at two successive election cycles in which Republicans will defend ten or more seats more than Democrats. That 53-47 majority might survive the 2020 election, depending on how the presidential race ends up, but it’s not going to survive the 2022 election unless the GOP starts expanding its reach beyond its core base. McConnell certainly doesn’t want to be part of a majoritarian Senate if Democrats win both chambers in 2020 and Trump loses re-election.

That would be a nightmare scenario for the GOP, with far worse implications than losing $5 billion for the border wall. Do we really want to read a headline like “Medicare for All passes Senate 51-49, awaits Harris signature” in 2021?

Update: Don’t expect Mitt Romney to have any different position on this than Orrin Hatch: