Tuesday morning on Fox News, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders gave President Donald Trump a way to save face should he cave to Democrats on funding for a border wall.
Democrats have so far refused the president’s demands for $5 billion in wall funding, a compromise from the $25 billion needed to complete construction of wall on the southern border. Congress must pass a spending bill by midnight Friday to keep the government fully operational, and Democrats have only agreed to fund $1.6 billion as part of a continuing resolution to keep spending at current levels.
Sanders suggested that if Congress refuses to appropriate the full $5 billion, the president can look elsewhere for those funds and sign a bill that will keep the government open.
“We have other ways that we can get to that $5 billion that we will work with Congress if they will make sure that we get a bill passed that provides not just the funding for the wall, but there is a piece of legislation that’s been pushed around that Democrats voted 26-5 out of committee that provides roughly $26 billion in border security, including $1.6 billion for the wall,” Sanders said. “That’s something that we would be able to support as long as we can couple that with other funding resources that help us get to the $5 billion.”
She did not get specific about those “funding resources.” In truth, the administration’s ability to move money around is limited without congressional approval, which Trump will be hard-pressed to receive once the Democrats assume control of the House of Representatives.
Yet Sanders said the president is committed to border security and does not want to shut the government down.
“We don’t want to shut down the government, we want to shut down the border from illegal immigration, from drugs coming into this country, and make sure we know who’s coming and why they’re coming, and that’s what the president is focused on,” Sanders added later.
That statement contradicts President Trump, who last week proclaimed he would be “proud” to shut down the government for border security. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other Republican leaders have been urging the president to avoid a government shutdown. Possibly, Trump is acquiescing to the demands of Republican congressional leaders.
Here’s the deal: If Trump signs a spending bill without the full down payment on wall funding to avoid a government shutdown, he breaks repeated promises to fight for border security, but he’ll blame the failure on Democrats and claim that his administration is working around Congress. Going this route likely means no wall funding before the 2020 election. If Trump keeps his promise, the government will shut down this weekend, and Republicans and Democrats will continue negotiations as the media hysterically reports on the government being “shut down,” while in reality less than 10 percent of the government stops working.
To score a win, Trump and the GOP need to make a unified argument for border security. Trump should deliver an address to the nation on the hundreds of thousands of criminal convictions of illegal immigrants made in fiscal year 2018 and on the illicit drug crisis fueled by international drug cartels taking advantage of our weak borders. Trump ought to demonstrate how a wall works and how Democrats are threatening public safety by refusing to fund the wall. Trump should follow through with the shutdown threat and spend every single day of the shutdown single-mindedly hammering the Democrats until they either give in or keep the government closed indefinitely.
Short of this strategy, what exactly will change in the next two years? A Democratic House will not approve wall funding or any other of Trump’s priorities. If the case is made to the American people that Republicans should be in control of the House again and Trump is re-elected with a GOP majority in 2020, how will anything be different from the past two years of GOP control with no wall funding? Trump has repeatedly given in to demands from Congress to keep the government open, and so far he has nothing to show for it. Enough is enough.
If Trump wants the wall, it’s shutdown or bust. If he’s unwilling to fight, he should tell the American people he can’t win and let them find someone else who will.
Chris Pandolfo is a staff writer and type-shouter for Conservative Review. He holds a B.A. in politics and economics from Hillsdale College. His interests are conservative political philosophy, the American founding, and progressive rock. Follow him on Twitter for doom-saying and great album recommendations @ChrisCPandolfo.
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