As Shutdown Lingers, Donald Trump Escalates Battle for Border Wall with Democrats

Trump, Trump Shadows
Czarek Sokolowski/AP

As the partial government shutdown affecting about a quarter of the federal government nears the one-week mark, President Donald Trump is escalating his battle for the border wall with Democrats, pushing for more funding for the barrier.

In a series of tweets on Thursday afternoon, President Trump called out congressional Democrats for opposing securing the border with a wall–and pointed out that the Democrats scuttled a previous opportunity for a deal that would have funded the wall in exchange for a permanent legislative solution on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA is the illegal Barack Obama-era executive amnesty, through which the previous president bestowed–without legislative approval–amnesty upon approximately a million illegal alien youths.

Earlier this year, a number of legislative proposals exchanging in part the border wall for a permanent DACA amnesty, including some deals where Democrats were open to the pillars in principle that were floated–but none made it through Congress.

The White House issued a new statement late on Thursday afternoon, too, putting the heat on congressional Democrats. The White House said, per a press pool report:

The President has made clear that any bill to fund the government must adequately fund border security to stop the flow of illegal drugs, criminals, MS-13 gang members, child smugglers and human traffickers into our communities – and protect the American people. The Administration understands this crisis and made a reasonable, common-sense solution to Democrats five days ago – we’ve not received a single response. The President and his team stayed in Washington over Christmas hoping to negotiate a deal that would stop the dangerous crisis on the border, protect American communities, and re-open the government. The Democrats decided to go home. The only rational conclusion is that the Democrat party is openly choosing to keep our government closed to protect illegal immigrants rather than the American people. The President does not want the government to remain shut down, but he will not sign a proposal that does not first prioritize our county’s safety and security.

When those deals fell through, Trump pushed to have $5 billion in border wall funding included in a spending bill that Congress was supposed to approve after the midterm elections – before Christmas, heading into the new year. In the week leading up to Christmas, the GOP-led House of Representatives passed the funding bill that including $5.7 billion in border wall money Trump sought–but the bill was blocked in the Senate, which passed a different spending bill with zero dollars for the border wall.

The deadline passed last Friday at midnight, leading to a lapse in funding for the Department of Homeland Security and a number of other federal departments and agencies and what has now been a slow-burning partial federal government shutdown. The military and other parts of the federal government are funded via separate spending bills, so the nature of the shutdown being only part of the government–along with the timing of it starting the long weekend leading into Christmas Eve and Christmas and continuing into the long weekend leading into New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day next week–have mitigated much of the normal consequences of a prolonged government shutdown. In other words, as the public is not feeling the effects of the shutdown as they had in previous shutdowns like one during the Obama administration, that gives Trump more leverage with which to batter Democrats.

The president, however, is racing the clock. If he does not obtain some kind of victory by Jan. 3–which is next Thursday, just one week away–the new Democrat majority in the House elected in November’s midterm elections takes over. While Republicans were able to add a net two seats to their Senate majority on Nov. 6, they lost control of the House–meaning Trump’s ability to leverage this battle for border wall funding significantly decreases when power changes hands.

The Senate returned on Thursday after the Christmas holidays, and the House is not expected to have any votes this weekend into early next week, per the GOP leadership.

As such, this shutdown is very likely to last through New Year’s Day and even likely to bleed into the next Congress. Democrats are blaming Republicans and particularly Trump for the lingering shutdown, but assuming it lasts into January, when Democrats take over they start bearing responsibility and cannot just throw political attacks Trump’s way. Given the minimal impact of the shutdown on the public, and the lack of consequences in Washington for the president at least for now, he may seek to drag this out as long as he can while continually battering the Democrats politically like he is doing on Twitter on Thursday afternoon.

To get to a deal that reopens the government, both chambers of Congress–the House and the Senate–will need to pass a spending bill in agreement with each other. The Senate, per rules that there are not enough votes to change, requires 60 votes for such legislation to make it to the president’s desk. If the deadline lurks past when the new Congress elected in November comes in on Jan. 3, any bills passed by either chamber become null and void, so Congress would need to start over.

The high-stakes political battle for funding for the border wall is one of Trump’s central campaign promises, and his re-election is under two years away. Meanwhile, on the Democrat side of the aisle, as many as 40 or more potential presidential candidates are considering bids for the Democrat nomination and the chance to take on Trump in a process likely to accelerate at the beginning of the year.

Conservatives and anti-establishment forces on the right are digging in, too, and pushing Trump to fight harder and harder for the wall. In a letter to the president obtained by Breitbart News, for instance, Rally Forge’s Jake Hoffman asks the president to step up and deliver a national address on the crisis at the border – to speak directly to the American people on the need for a wall. Hoffman writes:

On behalf of the entire conservative/America First movement, let me begin by applauding your dedication to doing what’s right for America and being willing to stand up for a sovereign America in the face of tremendous astroturfed opposition from both the Left and the establishment Right. America is greatly blessed by your sacrifice and steadfastness. Make no mistake, you will win this government shutdown. The time is now to take the truth about illegal immigration and the effectiveness of border walls directly to the American people. Today (12/24), you began this effort with your Facebook post on the White House Facebook page, as well as, your Donald J. Trump page. This was an excellent first step, but we need to reach further given the coming Leftist attacks.

Request for National Addres… by on Scribd

It remains to be seen where this battle goes from here, but it looks for now like both sides are dug in for the long haul in what could be one of the defining fights of 2019–right off the bat at the beginning of the year–all while Trump escalates his fight from his end, rallying the people to his side.


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