Everyone knows that Donald Trump will try to blame Democrats if he shuts down the U.S. government. But Democratic leaders in Congress are having none of it.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer issued a joint statement Monday letting the world know the truth. They wrote:
“Republicans still control the House, the Senate and the White House, and they have the power to keep government open.”
Still, the Democratic leaders want to avoid even a partial government shutdown by passing a spending bill as required. They are willing to compromise on some issues, but there are many other areas of dispute that will make reaching an agreement difficult.
Areas of conflict include the ongoing dispute over Trump’s border wall, as well as the details of a major farm bill and a demand that there be a formal rebuke of Saudi Arabia for the slaying of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
On Tuesday Trump has scheduled a meeting at the White House with Pelosi and Schumer with the hope that they can reach an agreement ahead of the December 21 deadline. If Congress doesn’t pass a spending bill there will be a shutdown of several important government agencies.
“Our country cannot afford a Trump Shutdown,” Pelosi and Schumer said in their statement. They also added that Trump “knows full well that his wall proposal does not have the votes to pass the House and Senate and should not be an obstacle to a bipartisan agreement.”
Republican congressional leaders have told the president that it’s up to him to cut a deal with Democrats. In other words, Republicans in Congress can’t agree among themselves, and so they are passing the buck to Democrats to get a deal done. No spending bill will be passed with Republican votes alone.
The good news is that this situation gives Democrats some leverage. The don’t know what to expect from the unpredictable president, but they will be negotiating from a position of strength.
The meeting today is also expected to cover these issues:
- Trump’s request for emergency funding for wildfires in California,
- A Republican-sponsored bill to extend expiring tax breaks and delay some health care taxes.
- A bipartisan criminal justice reform bill,
- A bill to protect special counsel Robert Mueller and
- A plan to overhaul the system for handling sexual harassment complaints on Capitol Hill.
But the border wall is the big issue. Trump wants the spending bill to include at least $5 billion for his beloved wall. Democrats have said “no way” to that amount, but might agree to a much smaller amount.
Trump has accused Democrats of playing “political games” and thinks he has a political advantage and will make Democrats look bad if they fight funding for the wall.
Republican congressional leaders are playing their own game. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said Monday on Fox News:
“The number is $5 billion. If there is a better way to get there than what the president has laid out, then they need to come with an alternative. They can’t come and say they want to shut the government down for no reason because they don’t want border security.”
But Pelosi and Schumer have asked Trump to support a compromise bill that includes a half-dozen government funding bills largely agreed upon by lawmakers. Then there would be a separate bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) at current levels through September 30.
It is the DHS bill that includes about $1.3 billion for border fencing and other security measures at the border.
If Trump does not agree to that, Democrats will likely urge a continuing resolution that funds all the remaining appropriations bills at current levels through September. 30.
Trump said Friday that Congress should provide all the money he wants for the wall and called illegal immigration a “threat to the well-being of every American community.”
Pelosi said she and most Democrats consider the wall “immoral, ineffective and expensive” and noted that Trump promised during the 2016 campaign that Mexico would pay for the wall.
Protecting borders “is a responsibility we honor, but we do so by honoring our values as well,” Pelosi said last week.
Schumer said Democrats want to work with Trump to avert a shutdown, but said money for border security should not include the concrete wall Trump has envisioned. Instead, the money should be used for fencing and technology that experts say is appropriate, Schumer said.
“We do not want to let a Trump temper tantrum govern our policies or cause the shutdown of a government, which everyone on both sides of the aisle knows is the wrong idea,” Schumer said. If Trump “wants to shut down the government over Christmas over the wall, that’s his decision,” he said.