Today’s attempt to cease the United States federal government shutdown on its 15th day ended about the way it started; with political bickering.
The Trump administration hosted a White House meeting with Congressional leaders from both parties Wednesday the 2nd in an attempt to welcome the new year with a new functional federal budget.
Alas by all accounts the meeting, centering around a briefing and discussion with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, went about as well as one might expect in this political climate… which is to say decidedly poorly. The New York Post explains,
“Team Trump and Congressional Democrats failed to cut a deal on funding for the president’s long-promised border wall during a White House sit down Wednesday — meaning the government shutdown will likely continue for the foreseeable future.
President Trump demanded that Democrats cough up $5 billion for the wall, while Democrats have offered $1.3 billion, leaving the two sides far apart as the shutdown, which began Dec. 22, drags on into the New Year.
Afterward, GOP and Democratic lawmakers held dueling press briefings in which each side blamed the other.”
Indeed, perhaps of more import to the various participating political elite than the actual meeting, the press conferences following the apparent failure in brinkmanship were excessive, both in sheer number as well as in what involved folks had to say to their respective sides of the spectrum.
The Left’s Take
The decision to focus the meeting on the homeland security briefing did not resonate well with Democrat leadership, who were quick to take aim at the Trump administrator.
“Well, I will tell you that it became clear at the start that the government shutdown was a much bigger issue than Secretary Nielsen’s view of the border,” said Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., adding that “she has lost her credibility with most of us.”
Leadership on the left were fairly transparent in their maintaining a staunch opposition to the President and his wall demands.
“We asked the president to support the bills that we support that will open up the government,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “I said, ‘Mr. President, why should you continue your shutdown over the eight Cabinet departments?’ He could not give a good answer.”
Nancy Pelosi, who became Speaker on Thursday, echoed the combative sentiments noting that Democrats would act to “end the Trump Shutdown” by passing legislation Thursday to reopen the government.
“We are giving the Republicans the opportunity to take yes for an answer,” she wrote in a letter to colleagues. “Senate Republicans have already supported this legislation, and if they reject it now, they will be fully complicit in chaos and destruction of the President’s third shutdown of his term.”
The Right’s Take
House Minority Leader-designate Kevin McCarthy of California, told reporters outside the White House that Trump had invited leaders back to continue negotiations on Friday, a spot of good news following a bad time.
“We never did get through the complete briefing,” McCarthy said, which was led by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. “I was a little disappointed with some on the other side. Once the secretary started, Senator Schumer interrupted her, and they really didn’t want to hear it.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky seemed less troubled, telling reporters, “I don’t think any particular progress was made today, but we talked about all aspects of it, and it was a civil discussion and we’re hopeful that somehow in the coming days and weeks we’ll be able to reach an agreement.” after arriving back to the Capitol.
As for the big man himself NBC reports,
“Earlier in the day, ahead of the meeting, Trump stressed his desire for his full funding request for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border during a Cabinet meeting that lasted nearly two hours. The president declined to specify how long the shutdown might last, saying only that the stoppage would continue “as long as it takes.”
“Could be a long time, or it could be quickly. Could be a long time. It’s too important a subject to walk away from,” he said following the high-profile get-together explaining,
“I think the people of this country think I’m right; Again, I could have done nothing. I could have had a lot easier presidency by doing nothing. But I’m here, I want to do it right.”
Reality: So Close Yet So Far
If one thing is exceedingly clear in the current shut down scenario, it’s that both sides are miles apart.
While $5 Billion dollars is in all honestly not exactly an earth shattering sum to the tax inhaling and bill printing monolith that is the United States Government (after all it happens to be $23 Trillion in debt…), the utter failure to negotiate has much more to do with optics.
The Democrats will have absolutely no issue in holding out against Trump’s budget requests. It makes for a convenient grandiose public display of unpopular leadership elites like Pelosi operationalizing the anti-Trump hysteria they’ve been fomenting since his inauguration. To concede to Trump’s demands would be electoral suicide opening them to usurpation by the much more left-leaning, and hypothetically more grassroots, movements of the likes of Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez.
On the other end, Trump’s political capital is exceedingly invested in ‘The Wall.’ It was the defining factor in jettisoning him to the Presidency; but more important for Trump in the current term it palpably epitomizes one of his best issues, border security. While securing the border is actually genuinely empirically popular, shutdowns are decidedly not; leaving Trump the manager of an escalating competition between issues.
Under normal circumstances compromising on a ~$4 Billion gap shouldn’t take weeks of shutdown; these circumstances are hardly normal. President Trump has made it clear he’s unwilling to budge much on what he thinks his policy cornerstone deserves, and with an opposition militantly dedicated to fighting his agenda tooth and nail the portents don’t particularly suggest the current situation, nor its press conferences, will end anytime soon.