As we enter into the fifth week of the government shutdown, it appears there is no end in sight. Yet there could and should be, and the solution is not complicated but for the intransigence of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). To be fair, In December McConnell put together a bi-partisan continuing resolution to fund the twenty-five percent of government that is now shut down. Coupled with the House resolution, the government would have stayed open until February 8, 2019, by which time it was hoped that a more permanent spending bill could be agreed on. But President Donald Trump rejected it because the bill did not include the $5.7 billion he demands for a down payment on his border wall.
Of course, neither Trump nor his Republican supporters are insisting that he keep the second half of his border wall promise, the half that guaranteed without equivocation that the Mexicans would pay for it. McConnell was caught short when Trump refused to sign the continuing resolution, and now he refuses to take a vote that doesn’t include the $5.7 billion because he knows Trump will veto it.
The indifference to the federal workers’ plight in not being paid, with many, like TSA officers required to work without pay, is deplorable. Unless you are an engineer, lawyer, doctor, or other highly skilled professional, as a federal employee you are on the lower end of the pay scale. Many, with families, live paycheck to paycheck and don’t make enough to have a savings account that can carry them through a month or more without income.
Rush Limbaugh recently said---from the Palm Beach mansion where he does his broadcast---that he wants the shutdown to continue for a few more months if need be to get the money for the wall. Trump said he “relates” to the unpaid workers. I’m still trying to figure that one out considering that his father paid him a yearly allowance of $200,000 starting at age three that exceeds many times over what the average federal employee makes in perhaps a half decade or more.
This fight appears to be over the definition of a wall. From Trump’s own mouth, most understand it to mean a concrete or steel structure that would extend the entire length of the U.S.-Mexican border at a roughly estimated cost of $26 billion or more. Democrats, despite calumnies to the contrary that they want open borders, do in fact support border security. And border security can consist of a variety of security measures. I’ll leave it to the experts to decide the best solutions at the most reasonable cost if the American taxpayer is going to be stuck with the bill as it now appears to be.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are right in insisting that the president pass a clean bill on the funding of the remaining government agencies, and that they deliberate separately on border security. This is what the Congress does. They hold committee hearings to listen to experts, to flesh out details, and then they argue and debate on the floor before hopefully distilling the best solution(s) ahead of taking a vote. Border security talks, which Democrats support, would include how to tighten up our various ports of entry and finding solutions for the number of illegals who are here from overstaying their visas. But Trump wants to bypass this process and demands that both Houses bend to his will despite the separation of powers laid out in the Constitution.
Those indifferent to the adverse effects of the shutdown, of how it is rippling and ripping into the economy---one has to ask if these hardline Trump supporters, some who get Social Security checks and/or other government retirement benefits, would be so supportive if this money was frozen until an agreement was reached. I think the answer is in the question.
McConnell, if he was half the leader he considers himself, would call the Senate together, and vote for a clean bill to fund the agencies waiting for the appropriations. McConnell would meet with Trump, remind him that each Senator represents his/her individual state, and that the president can sign the joint House and Senate bill or veto it, that it’s on Trump going forward.
If McConnell did this, Trump would be isolated. The carrot McConnell would hold is the promise to prioritize border security, to find consensus, and let Trump call the results a victory. But it ain’t gonna happen. McConnell is gutless.