If there’s one thing Americans can surely agree on, it’s the idiocy of a federal government shutdown. No one benefits — not the public employees, not the taxpayers and especially not anyone who requires government services that are suspended during the standoff, a group that is growing from national park visitors and government contractors to small business owners and soon likely SNAP recipients, air travelers, those expecting a tax refund and many more. Over the weekend, the shutdown surpassed the modern-day record for forced government closures and, should it last two more weeks, it will have cost the U.S. economy more than the $5.7 billion being debated.
And yet, at Day 24, there is no end in sight. President Donald Trump has dug into his position that the United States, in the middle of a relative lull in illegal border crossings by recent standards, is somehow in a “crisis” that can only be resolved by immediate wall construction. “The damage done to our Country from a badly broken Border — Drugs, Crime and so much that is bad — is far greater than a Shutdown, which the Dems can easily fix as soon as they come back to Washington!” Mr. Trump reminded his Twitter followers on Sunday. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is of the mind that, since Americans just voted in a House majority that actively campaigned against construction of a border wall, Democrats ought to stand up for more sensible means of border security.
Can we all agree that the federal government should not be held hostage — even partially — by an impasse over policy, particularly so dubious a policy? Not only is hurting Americans in an immediate and meaningful way antithetical to what government is supposed to be about, but the shutdown is not even helpful politically to its instigator. Polls show most Americans oppose border wall construction and primarily blame President Trump for the current impasse. And how could any of that be a shocker? Mr. Trump invited the mantle of “Trump shutdown” weeks ago. What has happened since that moment has been entirely predictable — if moronic. Rarely has a tailed wagged a dog in Washington like extremist anti-immigration talking heads like Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity have with their insistence that President Trump not budge on the wall, no matter the impact on his administration or the future of the Republican Party.
Mr. Trump has tried to couch the matter as an impasse between himself, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. But that’s not quite accurate. The U.S. Senate is controlled by the GOP, and they have a right to their own ideas about border security and government shutdowns. The idea advanced recently by South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Trump confidante, that the president should reopen government while members of Congress debate border security is, at least, a rational approach. But missing in action is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He could do more than speculate on ways to reopen government, he could call on his members to approve stop-gap funding and take the “hostage” out of the equation.
So why not? Why can’t Senator McConnell get behind a less self-destructive approach to immigration policy? So far, he has disappeared so completely that senators may be tempted to put his picture on milk cartons. For someone who is allegedly a master of the legislative process — who even passed stop-gap funding once before — he appears to now hold no opinions of his own. Insiders say he has little to say in negotiations behind the scenes, either. He seems to be stuck between his personal Scylla and Charybdis, not wishing to anger President Trump but not enthusiastic about the policy or the tactics being employed.
Enough is enough. Each day the shutdown drags on, everyone loses. How does that advance anything? Surely, the last thing political conservatives want is for Mr. Trump to declare a national emergency and unilaterally force wall construction. That’s not only highly suspect constitutionally, it’s a precedent that Republicans would be screaming about if Barack Obama or any other Democrat were attempting something similar. Congress is in charge of government spending. Stop the shutdown, debate border security in reasonable (not hyper politicized) terms, and let Mr. Trump spend the next two years whining to his xenophobic pals about how Congress didn’t do enough. You can bet that’s his plan anyway. It’s time to stop this costly charade that has far more to do with either scaring or pleasing Mr. Trump’s political base than addressing a wildly overstated problem.
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