On paper, this appears to be a “no-brainer”. And yet, in these final days of unified Republican control of the federal government, Republican leaders have still been scrambling to figure out a last-chance save to stave off such a winter blunderland. Only today have Senate leaders finally begun admitting their dirty little secret that the only way out lies in yet another continuing resolution that will only last until February.
So why did it take so long for Congressional leaders to agree upon yet another short-term spending bill, and why is this latest “border brawl” still far from over?
Trump keeps demanding “The Wall”, even though Mexico absolutely won’t pay for it.
During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly promised he would “Build The Wall!”… And that “Mexico will pay for it.” Yet despite Trump’s repeated attempts to create the illusion of “something for nothing, build the wall for free”, the cold, hard truth is that Mexico continues to oppose spending even one peso on Trump’s desired border wall.
This is the key to understanding why Trump often threatens to shut down the federal government over his desired border wall. Even as Trump has succeeded in making his own mark on U.S. immigration policies by utilizing various parts of the government to assemble his deportation regime, he still hasn’t succeeded in fulfilling his two signature campaign promises of building “The Wall” and closing the border.
And now, Trump is being confronted by a third failure of his immigration agenda: His failure to “build the wall” around Republicans’ Congressional majorities and secure a permanent political realignment in his favor. While Republicans bet big on “economic anxiety”, Democrats ultimately benefited from a changing electorate and a growing voter backlash to Trump’s nativist agenda. Yet despite growing evidence that Trumpism is weakening the Republican brand in areas where Republicans must recover lost ground to win in 2020 (and beyond), Republicans risk losing their primaries if they publicly cross Trump and diss his nativist base.
So now, Congress is about to approve one more “quick fix”. However, this fight remains far from over.
Since the election, Trump has continued to demand $5 billion for his $25 billion+ wall while Democrats have continued to pour cold water on his white hot fantasy and Congressional Republicans have continued to struggle to gather enough votes in their own caucuses to pass much of anything. The White House finally began to raise the white flag yesterday when they admitted Trump would agree to a spending bill that does not include his $5 billion border wall funding demand. And just this morning, Senate leaders unveiled a tentative agreement on a continuing resolution to keep the federal government fully funded through February 8, and this agreement does not include any border wall funding.
Assuming Republican leaders gather enough votes to join Democrats in passing this continuing resolution, this simply creates a new February 8 budget deadline that Trump will try to use to extract border wall funding. However, this also gives Democrats a prime opportunity, should they choose to take it. With House Democrats set to take the majority when the 116th Congress begins on January 3, they will call the shots on any future budget bills that will have to pass the House.
Though “The Wall” is the most physically visible facet of Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda, there’s far more at stake: the ongoing abuse of migrants in federal custody, the public charge rule change that seeks to penalize working-class immigrant families, the deportation regime that’s already terrorizing immigrant communities across the nation, Trump’s attempts to circumvent federal law (such as his attempt to raid other budget accounts to find money to “Build The Wall!”), and so much more. If Democrats so choose, they can flip the script next year and use their leverage in the new year to try to make the White House curtail these and other extreme actions. Otherwise, 2019 may ultimately resemble these last two years as Trump continues to kick his wall down the road… So he continue to utilize the government tools he already has to attack immigrant communities.