In what is perhaps the most vivid display of Washington politics as a real-life WWE spectacle, both parties got together to agree on all of the key spending and legislative priorities for an entire year right after supposedly going to war with each other over impeachment. Trump and Senate Republicans rewarded House Democrats for impeachment by passing their budget deal. Trump is expected to sign these budget bills before the end of the day, along with the massive “defense” bill that contains everything but real defense.
I will be signing our 738 Billion Dollar Defense Spending Bill today. It will include 12 weeks Paid Parental Leave, gives our troops a raise, importantly creates the SPACE FORCE, SOUTHERN BORDER WALL FUNDING, repeals “Cadillac Tax” on Health Plans, raises smoking age to 21! BIG!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2019
The vote tallies say it all. The main omnibus bill that massively increased spending for non-defense items and contained a Christmas tree of Democrat-corporatist priorities leftists bragged about passed the House on Tuesday with all but seven of roughly 230 Democrats supporting it. At the same time, 112 Republicans, roughly 59 percent of the GOP conference, voted against it. Undoubtedly, even more would have opposed it had they not been told that the White House supported it.
Following the Democrat impeachment vote on Wednesday, the Senate passed this bill on Thursday by a margin of 71-23. Just two Democrats opposed it! On the other side, 21 Republicans voted no. One of the no votes, Kirsten Gillibrand, still bragged about all the pork the bill delivered. She likely had some quixotic reason for opposing the bill but did not seem too offended by it. None of the Democrat senators running for president were present for the vote, because of the debate in Iowa.
What about the separate DHS-DOD minibus bill? Didn’t that contain some wall funding? Didn’t Trump really win out over the Democrats on that? Yes, it’s true that 75 House Democrats did vote no, but two-thirds of the most radical House Democrat caucus in American history still voted for it. And it’s not like the other 75 members, mainly from the Hispanic and progressive caucuses, screamed bloody murder. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, did not even issue a press release on the vote.
They know darn well that 70 miles of wall for Trump while going backward on interior enforcement is a great result for them, given that Republicans control two branches and the American people side with Trump on immigration. It’s just that they went out so far on a limb promising to completely defund border security, Democrat leadership gave them a separate bill for DHS funding so they could vote no in a theater display in which both bills still passed.
In the Senate, just seven Democrats voted no. It’s true that just four Republican senators opposed it as well, but that’s because any bill that contains military funding is like gospel to Republicans. Moreover, again, it was clear to them that Trump himself was backing the bill. If anything, the fact that 62 of the most conservative House Republicans voted no, despite the president’s support, demonstrates that this was more of a deal for Democrats.
So what gives? Did the impervious truculence of Antifa Democrats suddenly mellow out? Did Trump simply fool them with five-dimensional chess?
The answer is quite simple. The very reasons why Democrats are content with the outcome are the reasons why conservatives should not be. Whereas congressional Republicans, President Trump, and conservative media are satiated with talking points, Democrats pursue and achieve long-term results and actualize permanent trends in immigration. They were willing to give Trump one talking point for a much greater long-term amnesty, especially as they are winning the debate through the courts and the states anyway.
Democrats understand that interior enforcement is more important than a border wall, most certainly 70 miles of wall. They also understand that the provision they stuck in the bill granting amnesty to all “sponsors” of Central American teens undermines both interior enforcement and border enforcement in the long run. Finally, they recognize that what they have accomplished in the courts and the sanctuary states – without any GOP effort to fight those issues in the budget bill or though any other effective means – counters any “talking point achievements” they throw at Trump. This is especially true if all they ceded after four years of the “most anti-illegal immigration president ever,” even with full GOP control for two years, is just 70 miles of wall (bollard fencing, by the way, not the original concrete prototype).
As I warned earlier this week, this bill contains an amnesty that is likely larger and more pernicious than any legislative amnesty codified into law since 1986. It invites all illegal aliens to traffic Central American teens and escape ICE removal as a reward. Not only does this provision endanger every American city by tethering the powerful market force of amnesty to the act of trafficking some of the most violent gang members and drug traffickers, it encourages those who don’t have kids to find some and bring them in. This is a defeat mechanism against even a 2,000-mile wall, much less a 70-mile wall, because, under current policy, even if they walk up to a port of entry and claim to be an unaccompanied teen, we will bring them in. 400,000 of them have come in recent years, and even as the number of other illegal aliens finally plummets, there are signs that unaccompanied children numbers are rising again.
Democrats play chess while Republicans play checkers.
Furthermore, this particular provision brings out a broader point in terms of long-term immigration trends and goals. Democrats successfully got well over one million new illegal aliens into the country this year – under Trump. They got deportations down below Obama levels. Between their new strategy in the courts and sanctuary states, they have now protected the overwhelming majority of illegal aliens from removal. Outside of Florida, Texas, and Arizona, most illegal aliens live in sanctuary jurisdictions. Thus, barring an effort to rectify the judicial amnesty and sanctuary problem in the budget bill, Democrats are actually achieving even better outcomes so long as they don’t give ICE more funding. In a bill that expanded funding for some liberal agencies and departments by 10 percent, it is simply unacceptable for ICE not to have gotten more funding after a year of one million apprehensions at the border.
Trump could demand a clean continuing resolution for six weeks and build the case against sanctuary cities, using the bully pulpit to educate the public about the 3.3 million criminal aliens at large in the country and the 2,500 homicides a year. He could force a better result, or at the very least expose the Democrats in a protracted national fight on one of the their most unpopular stances. A super-majority of Hispanics oppose sanctuary cities. Just look at the success of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his approval rating among all voters, including Hispanics. This is how you not only win re-election, but also win back the House, which is becoming increasingly hard thanks to retirements and judicial gerrymandering in some states.
Administration officials would tell you that pushing for a clean CR and fighting on into next year would jeopardize 70 miles of wall. But 70 miles of wall is not worth the MS-13 amnesty in the bill, nor is it worth surrendering Trump’s only remaining leverage point for the remainder of his term to press Democrats on the sanctuary issue, which is really where the fight has moved. There are at least 2,500 criminal alien murders a year and countless hundreds of thousands of other crimes. The new California numbers reveal that ICE is barely getting a fraction of those criminals. Every day Trump should be working with ICE officials to expose the most heinous crimes of sanctuary cities and demanding action in the budget. But that would require them to keep the ball in play with a continuing resolution.
This would be the best way to fight back against impeachment, win back the House, and keep the presidency. And the fact that we are down to 70 miles of fencing is because the administration failed to fight for anything more significant even when Republicans controlled all three branches. The same White House legislative team that incontrovertibly failed in 2017 and 2018 are the ones putting out these excuses today.
But alas, that is only true if you are seeking results. If you are seeking talking points, border wall funding is sexier, even if it’s only 70 miles.
I don’t say this to cry over spilt milk. If we don’t internalize the mistakes of the first term, we are bound to repeat them in the second term. Even if Republicans win back the House, it won’t be any better than 2017-2018 when it was “the 60-vote threshold ate my homework” and “the district judge ate my homework.” At some point, we need to push for and achieve actual results in a systemic and enduring way. Unless, of course, this is all about talking points, even in the long run.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.