With Congress on break for a long Christmas weekend we know that Trump’s government shutdown will last until at least Thursday. If it goes on much longer than that it won’t be the fault of Democrats, however. It will because Republicans on Capitol Hill can’t agree among themselves how to end the impasse.
Yesterday the president summoned a group of GOP lawmakers to the White House to discuss how best to resolve the shutdown crisis. No Democrats were invited, ending the speculation that Trump was seeking a bipartisan solution.
As the discussion ensued it became clear that different GOP factions in Congress were fighting each other to be heard — and to have their points of view accepted by President Trump.
One GOP faction is led by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby of Alabama who argued that Trump should agree to a spending deal that includes $1.6 billion for a border wall. This is the amount that Senate Democrats agreed to a few weeks ago, and it could most likely get the 60 required votes for approval in the Senate.
But Trump’s top supporters in the conservative House Freedom Caucus would not support that approach. They strongly suggested that the president not “cave” and accept what they believe is a bad deal.
The hard-liners in the House want Trump to get the full $5 billion he’s demanded for wall funding.
“I want to make it very clear $1.6 billion is not going to work for conservatives, it’s not going to work for the president,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told reporters outside his office after the White House meeting had concluded.
Reporters also asked Shelby if he and House conservatives were on the same page, but he did not give a clear yes or no answer. He said that Trump believes he has enough House GOP votes “to carry the day.” And he also said that with respect to the $5 billion demand he said “Well I would say you can get to $5 billion in different ways.”
The White House has floated a compromise number of $2.1 billion with restrictions on how the money can be spent. It is thought that Senate Democrats might accept that. But Meadows said the administration will demand a higher figure.
“The numbers I’ve heard that they’ve floated — and it’s not an offer — have been much higher than that,” Meadows told reporters.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a strong Trump ally agreed with Meadows. “It’s got to be more than $1.6 billion dollars,” Graham said after the meeting. “I don’t want to accept the idea that you won’t get a penny more.”
But Shelby maintains that Trump would be able to obtain more money for his wall by accessing funds from other budget areas.
Shelby also said that it was very important for the president to reach an agreement before Democrats take control of the House on January 3.
“I told the president that I thought that we ought to cut the best deal that we could now, but it would be up to them,” Shelby said. “And I also told him … that come January 3 the political equation changes. Some of those guys don’t realize that.”
Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi, who will likely become Speaker next year, wrote to House Democrats on Saturday that Democratic leaders will not give in to Trump. She said they will refuse to fund his wall even if it means the government will stay shut down for a longer period of time.
“Until President Trump can publicly commit to a bipartisan resolution, there will be no agreement before January when the new House Democratic Majority will swiftly pass legislation to re-open government.”
Since Republicans can’t agree among themselves it looks like it will take Democrats to re-open the United States government.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.