Today, Democrats take control of the House with a considerable majority and they’re doing so during the government shutdown. Now, President Donald Trump is going to have to deal with a new challenge: Working with a House that is openly hostile to both him and his agenda.
On Monday, in the waning hours of 2019, House Democrats unveiled their strategy to reopen the government. House Democrats are planning to pass legislation that won’t include funding for Trump’s border wall. However, the bills will apparently feature numerous other concessions to Republicans.
The idea is quite straightforward: offer enough concessions to be reasonable and perhaps get the buy-in from many GOP members of Congress. Indeed, the Democrat proposals will feature nearly all of the concessions for increased spending beckoned by Republicans.
Democrats are even offering $1.3 billion for increased border security but they aren’t offering the $5 billion the president has requested to build a border wall. The president has claimed that he won’t support or sign any measures that don’t feature funding for his border wall.
This means Democrats will be putting the ball in the president’s court. If the government shutdown remains, Democrats will be able to lay blame at the president’s feet. On the other hand, if Trump caves, it could make him look weak. Trump has used illegal immigration as a rallying call for his base and, since the 2016 presidential bid, has pledged to build a border wall.
Democrats have labeled the wall an ineffective waste. Releasing a statement, House Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer argued: “The President is using the government shutdown to try to force an expensive and ineffective wall upon the American people, but Democrats have offered two bills which separate the arguments over the wall from the government shutdown.”
Could Republicans in the House and Senate simply ignore the president and support the funding measures? If so, they could likely overrule his veto. The biggest hangup would be the Senate, which is still in Republican control. And so far, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has claimed that he won’t support a spending bill without the president’s blessing.
With the 2020 presidential race looming, the on-going funding battle will be more politicized than usual, and it’s already a highly partisan affair. Democrats may oppose Trump’s border wall on principle, but in the grand scheme of things, $5 billion isn’t much. Still, if they can force the president to concede, or likewise pin blame on him for the shutdown, it would be a major political victory.
Will the president cave? So far, the White House has been mum on the Democrats’ proposal, but given that it was unveiled on New Year’s Eve, it’ll likely take a few days to put together a response. The White House has already conceded that the wall won’t be a wall, but more of a fence.
Still, that’s splitting hairs. Many security experts agree the steel slat fence will be more effective than a solid wall. It’d allow border patrol agents to see the other side of the wall yet still impede migration.
President Trump, however, is surely eyeing up the 2020 presidential race. A concession might tamp down support among his base. Then again, a prolonged shutdown might do the same.