Democrats Have Explaining to Do as Shutdown Drags On

Member Group : Matt Mackowiak

As we prepare to mark the fourth full week of the partial government shutdown, there remains no visible end in sight.

President Trump rightly refuses to give up his leverage. Democrats wrongly refuse to negotiate at all.

When you control one-half of one-third of the federal government, as the Democrats now do, you cannot expect to get everything you want in a legislative battle. Here’s an inconvenient question: Do Democrats have a border security proposal? Anything?

If a border wall is “immoral,” as some Democrats have claimed, then the logical follow-up question is this: Do Democrats want existing physical barriers on the southern border removed?

Democrats are suggesting that Mr. Trump reopen the government for a few weeks while both parties get down to serious negotiations. If he agrees to this, Mr. Trump gives up his leverage and there is no pressure to solving the issue. The president obviously realizes this.

Past shutdown battles came down to which side could be credibly blamed and which side was perceived as being more reasonable.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer lost the shutdown battle of 2017 because the New York Democrat made unreasonable demands that caused the shutdown. He quickly folded.

What is different this time is that Mr. Trump cannot give in on his signature campaign promise and Democrats cannot give in to Mr. Trump. Neither side’s base can accept a loss.

Average Americans look at this and must be wondering why don’t both sides look for a compromise.

Democrats were fine with $1.6 billion in border security funding last year. Presumably they begin at that amount now. President Trump has been asking for $5 billion. Why can’t they meet in the middle?

Democrats claim to want certainty for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients — the so-called “Dreamers.” Lawmakers know the program offering “temporary protection” to some immigrant groups needs reform. There is a grand bargain to be had where neither side will get everything they want, but both sides can live with it. A legislative proposal like this would likely pass with veto-proof margins. It could be on the House and Senate floor in 48 hours and the shuttered parts of the federal government could reopen Monday. But the reality is both parties have no incentive to compromise.

Democrats claim to care about the 800,000 federal workers who have not been paid. But if they truly cared, they would be negotiating. They are not negotiating because they believe the shutdown benefits them politically.

President Trump cares far more about the underlying issue of border security than he does about when federal workers are paid. He cannot give up his leverage and receive nothing in return.

Media elites constantly whine about how Mr. Trump “violates existing norms” with the way he operates in office.

Is there any pushback to Speaker Nancy Pelosi for effectively suggesting Wednesday that Mr. Trump forget about giving his State of the Union on Capitol Hill this year?

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen confirmed that the Secret Service would be able to adequately protect the Capitol for the State of the Union. Mrs. Pelosi’s bluff was called.

Security is not the reason for the Pelosi ploy. The California speaker is deeply worried about giving Mr. Trump an hour to make his case for border security before millions of Americans, without the mainstream media filter. This is the real reason she is playing games with the State of the Union address until the shutdown ends.

No one can predict how this will end, but the way ahead is clear. Bipartisan groups of legislators should continue to meet to forge consensus. The White House should continue to provide detail on what they want and why such funding is needed.

We have now had 27 days of both parties refusing to make any tangible progress toward a deal.

Both sides want something. Why can’t they get together and make a deal?

One thing is certain — Mr. Trump cannot make a deal by himself.

Matt Mackowiak is president of Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C.-based Potomac Strategy Group. He’s a Republican consultant, a Bush administration and Bush-Cheney re-election campaign veteran and former press secretary to two U.S. senators.


Matt Mackowiak


Potomac Strategy Group, LLC


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