Once again, common sense eludes our president.
A government shutdown as leverage for funding for a border wall is the latest example of the reckless disregard our president has for the role that tens of thousands of federal employees play in how our nation functions.
While his supporters concur that a wall is necessary, the majority of Americans seem to be scared by these temper tantrum-like fits to bully past the political process — and sensibility.
A wall or else?
Nine of 15 federal departments were closed this weekend, and several dozen agencies have shut their doors, denying vital services to millions of American citizens. Since midnight Saturday, more than 800,000 public servants and their families have been told not to expect their next paycheck for the foreseeable future. Ironically, the shutdown includes the very agents the nation depends upon to carry out immigration enforcement policies.
And that is OK with this president, his cronies in Congress and a large part of his base. We know no deal was reached as of Saturday, extending the shutdown until at least Thursday when leaders are scheduled to reconvene.
Patrick Leahy, the senior Democratic senator from Vermont, issued a scathing statement over the weekend that aptly characterized the situation: It’s ransom.
“The President is holding the federal government hostage for $5 billion of American taxpayer dollars for his unnecessary, ineffective, and expensive wall on the southern border — a wall he repeatedly promised the American taxpayers Mexico would pay for.”
This method of persuasion seems to suggest that this president will use every continuing resolution as an opportunity to forward his agenda, which runs counter to what most Americans support.
It is a dangerous precedent, and a tactic that is devoid of dialogue, compromise or reason.
As Leahy noted, “The President’s irresponsible behavior is astounding. His job, like ours, is to keep the federal government operating for the hundreds of millions of Americans who depend on government services every day, from our national parks, to housing services for the elderly, disabled, and our veterans, and for assistance for our nation’s farmers.”
The president is blaming Democrats for the shutdown, but this is his doing.
It was entirely avoidable.
In fact, Congress has presented the president options, including six full-year appropriations bills, a continuing resolution for Homeland, or a continuing resolution for all the remaining bills. Either of these options would have kept the government open and provided more than $1 billion for border security.
But it wasn’t the $5 billion Trump wanted. And that is the ransom on the federal government shutdown.
Forget the wall for a moment and consider that this president is excited and proud of his actions.
He has publicly called for a government shutdown no fewer than 25 times over the last year. And last week, he declared he would be “proud” to shut down the government unless Congress capitulates to his demands.
“Proud?” Leahy noted. “That is one of the most reckless statements I have ever heard uttered by a President of the United States. And now he has made good on his threat. … Even in this, his behavior is erratic.”
Polls suggest that the wall is wasteful. There is not a crisis on the southern border that threatens our nation’s security. At the end of 2017, arrests of people attempting to enter the U.S. illegally dropped to historic lows. Between 2000 and 2017, border apprehensions fell sharply from roughly 1.6 million in fiscal year 2000 to approximately 300,000 in fiscal year 2016 — a 75-percent drop, according to data from the United States Border Patrol.
Similarly, those polled this weekend also feel the shutdown is actually more dangerous to our security.
So is this tantrum worth it?
Leahy put the outcome in context.
“And after all of that, and billions of wasted taxpayer dollars, what would it accomplish? Would it stop people from fleeing violence in their home countries and seeking sanctuary? No. Would it stop drug smugglers and human traffickers from engaging in illegal activity? Definitely no. As the expression goes, show me a 30-foot wall, and I will show you a 31-foot ladder — or a tunnel. To address these complex issues, we need real solutions, not bumper sticker slogans and angry tweets.”
We do need safe and secure borders. We don’t need exercises in vanity. We need leadership and reasoned approaches. We don’t need threats and bullying, fear or loathing. This behavior will not stand, nor should we stand for it. That would truly be great for America.