At best. Donald Trump sounded pessimistic about his chances of getting border-wall funding in upcoming budget negotiations in Congress, but perhaps not pessimistic enough. In his interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump cites the conference negotiators appointed as the reason for low odds of success, but the real issue is the same one as at the start — Nancy Pelosi:
President Trump said Sunday he doesn’t believe congressional negotiators will strike a deal over border-wall funding that he could accept and vowed that he would build a wall anyway, using emergency powers if need be.
Mr. Trump, in an interview, assessed the chances of whether a newly formed group of 17 lawmakers could craft a deal before the next government-funding lapse, in less than three weeks: “I personally think it’s less than 50-50, but you have a lot of very good people on that board.”
The WSJ has a list of people on the negotiating teams for both parties, and the mix looks less than promising. House Democrats include Henry Cuellar of Texas, who has been more of a moderate but is getting targeted by progressives in 2020 for a primary challenge. Nita Lowey (NY) leads the delegation, which also includes Barbara Lee (CA), not exactly a pair of Pelosi opponents. No one on the GOP side looks like a border-wall heavyweight, nor a member of senior leadership like Dick Durbin, Senate Democrats’ #2.
Besides, Trump isn’t planning on making any more concessions, or so he claims. He’ll do an extension to DACA but he’s not going to offer full normalization, not without a broader package of immigration reforms on his terms:
“I doubt it,” he said, when asked if he would agree to citizenship for a group of immigrants illegally brought to the U.S. as children, known as Dreamers, in exchange for border-wall funding.
“That’s a separate subject to be taken up at a separate time,” said Mr. Trump, a Republican. Earlier this month, the president offered three years of temporary protections for Dreamers as part of a broader proposal, but Democrats said they wanted more permanent protections, including a path to citizenship, for those immigrants.
In other words, the odds of a different result than what the shutdown produced look a lot less favorable than even 50/50. So are we heading to another shutdown? Trump told the WSJ that it was “certainly an option,” but Mick Mulvaney has another idea in mind. He told Fox News Sunday (around the 6-minute mark) that Trump is prepared to act “with or without Congress“:
President Trump is again considering invoking emergency powers to build his proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border without congressional approval, roiling the latest bipartisan negotiations over immigration with the renewed threat of unilateral executive action and further dividing Republicans already reeling from the fallout of the shutdown.
“The president’s commitment is to defend the nation, and he will do it either with or without Congress,” acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said on “Fox News Sunday.”
The emergency declaration has hung over this process since Trump first floated it before the shutdown started. It’s his ace in the hole, although not an entirely reliable ace as John Roberts notes with Mick Mulvaney. Now, however, it’s taken on another role — a rescue for Trump from what looks like a cave on Friday:
Inside the West Wing over the weekend, Trump told advisers that declaring a national emergency may be his best option as he scrambles to assert himself in a divided government and secure wall funding, according to four people involved in the discussions who were not authorized to speak publicly.
One White House official described Trump’s decision to reopen the government as “clearing the deck” for executive action rather than a retreat. And a longtime confidant said Trump has grown increasingly frustrated by news coverage of his concession to Democrats and has been encouraged by conservative allies to escalate the fight.
The cave on Friday has made an emergency declaration more likely. The odds are much better than 50/50 if Congress stiffs Trump on border-wall funding, even if the legal odds of success on that path aren’t nearly as high.