We are back to governing by ultimatum. And tantrums.
Tuesday morning in the Oval Office, President Trump sparred with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer about funding for Trump’s border wall. As predicted, it was an explosive and acrimonious piece of theater, played out in front of cameras.
With a partial government shutdown looming at the end of next week, the leaders clashed over the need for Trump’s border wall and whether the government must stay open.
Ultimately, it’s a high-stakes game of chicken.
House Republicans dug in on their demand for $5 billion for President Trump’s border wall, a figure rejected by Democratic congressional leaders set to meet with Trump as a partial government shutdown looms.
Republicans are standing by the president: We must secure our borders.
The hardened stance from House Republicans, who are determined to deliver a big payment for Trump’s wall in their final days in the majority, forecast rough negotiations to keep the government open past next week. Funding for the Homeland Security Department and a number of other agencies dries up Dec. 21 unless Congress and Trump act first.
Pelosi, of California, and Schumer, of New York, had planned to offer Trump $1.3 billion in funding for a border fence.
It never got that far. The president erupted in predictable indignation, rejecting anything less than the $5 billion, or else he shuts down the government until he does get what he wants.
“If we don’t have border security, we’ll shut down the government — this country needs border security,” the president declared.
Pelosi characterized the proposal as an ineffective and wasteful wall.
“The American people recognize that we must keep government open, that a shutdown is not worth anything, and that we should not have a Trump shutdown,” Pelosi said.
“A what?” the president shot back angrily.
House Republicans were grim about the chances of averting a partial shutdown that could send hundreds of thousands of federal workers home without pay just before Christmas. But they insisted Democrats would be to blame, pointing to opposition from Senate Democrats and accusing Pelosi of playing politics as she attempts to lock down the votes to succeed Paul Ryan as speaker.
On Tuesday, prior to the meeting, Trump renewed his demands in a series of tweets in which he said he looked forward to meeting with Schumer and Pelosi but also accused them of supporting “open borders.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged the Democrats to accommodate Trump’s wall demands, warning lawmakers either thet needed to cooperate or “prepare for a very, very long month.”
“For the nation’s sake, I hope that my Democratic friends are prepared to have a serious discussion and reach an accommodation with the president on funding for border security,” he said in a speech on the Senate floor.
If there is no agreement by the end of next week, funding will run out for the Homeland Security Department and other agencies including the Justice, Interior and Agriculture departments. Those agencies, making up about 25 percent of the federal government, are operating on a short-term spending bill Congress passed last week to move the shutdown deadline. The rest of the federal government, including the Pentagon, has already been funded through the 2019 budget year.
At what point did gridlock become the only form of governing?
Where is the sense or sensibility?
Where is the leadership?
Or even the pragmatists who can point to this kind of behavior and say, “This is not how compromise works!” By its very definition, compromise means neither side gets everything they want.
Unless, of course, you are a bully.
Now a shutdown seems more than likely, if we are to read the signs. And the political landscape is worse than ever.
This particular game of poker is exhausting to watch. Regardless of who comes out on top, the winners will win big. And the losers will be punished and humiliated for losing.
But in the end, we submit, we all lose.