No easy way out?

Trump boxed in by pol­i­tics amid shut­down

Simcoe Reformer - - BUSINES - Steve Peo­ples

NEW YORK — There is no easy way out.

As the third gov­ern­ment shut­down of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ten­ure stretched into its 19th day, po­lit­i­cal pres­sures on Trump and the Democrats have left lit­tle room for com­pro­mise in the stand­off over fund­ing for a bor­der wall. Most promi­nently, Trump’s nar­row fo­cus on the de­sires of his most ar­dent sup­port­ers has him con­vinced he can­not back off his sig­na­ture cam­paign prom­ise with­out fac­ing back­lash.

Some pow­er­ful Repub­li­can al­lies in Wash­ing­ton and be­yond are cheer­ing on his de­mands for $ 5.7 bil­lion fund­ing for the wall, even if some re­main un­easy. For Democrats, broad pub­lic skep­ti­cism about Trump’s case for the wall — com­bined with a driv­ing push from the base to stand up to the pres­i­dent — has as­sured them they’re on solid ground in re­fus­ing to bend.

The dy­namic has set the stage for what could be ex­tended po­lit­i­cal grid­lock with the eco­nomic liveli­hoods of some 800,000 fed­eral work­ers in the bal­ance.

The loom­ing ques­tion is whether the im­pact of the shut­down on gov­ern­ment ser­vices and the plight of strug­gling fed­eral work­ers force Repub­li­can law­mak­ers to break from the pres­i­dent or com­pel Democrats to budge. Un­til then, the dis­pute has given both par­ties a fast first test in the pol­i­tics of di­vided gov­ern­ment as they try to trade blame, man­age their mes­sages and strike a bal­ance be­tween com­pet­ing po­lit­i­cal wings.

Trump’s fo­cus now is squarely on his con­ser­va­tive base and its sup­port for the wall that came to sym­bol­ize Trump’s prom­ise for a hard- line, un­re­lent­ing ap­proach to im­mi­gra­tion.

“He got elected be­cause of that wall,” said Trump con­fi­dant Jerry Fal­well Jr., pres­i­dent of the evan­gel­i­cal Lib­erty Univer­sity. Fal­well said he has told Trump he’s do­ing the right thing. “I don’t think it’ll help him at all if he backs down.”

White House aides largely agree. Of­fi­cials main­tain the is­sue is a po­lit­i­cal win­ner, though they have urged the pres­i­dent to be more ag­gres­sive in mak­ing his case to the pub­lic — and to any wa­ver­ing Repub­li­can law­mak­ers.

Trump out­lined his ar­gu­ment in graphic terms dur­ing a prime- time Oval Of­fice ad­dress Tues­day night. While sev­eral stud­ies sug­gest that il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion has no im­pact on crime rates, the pres­i­dent high­lighted hor­rific crimes com­mit­ted by im­mi­grants and suggested his wall was needed to pre­vent this “cri­sis.”

“How much more Amer­i­can blood must we shed be­fore Congress does its job?” asked Trump, who plans to visit the bor­der Thurs­day.

The White House has been search­ing for op­tions — but not one that in­volves com­pro­mise. The ad­min­is­tra­tion has ex­plored the pos­si­bil­ity of fund­ing the mas­sive wall with­out con­gres­sional ap­proval by declar­ing a na­tional emer­gency or us­ing funds from an­other de­part­ment, though such moves would al­most cer­tainly trig­ger a le­gal chal­lenge and may push some Repub­li­cans in Congress to break.

Trump on Wednes­day ac­knowl­edged the po­lit­i­cal pres­sure from within his own party not to back down.

“If I did some­thing that was fool­ish, like gave up on bor­der se­cu­rity, the first ones that would hit me would be my sen­a­tors — they’d be an­gry at me. The sec­ond ones would be the House. And the third ones would be frankly my base and a lot of Repub­li­cans out there and a lot of Democrats that want to see bor­der se­cu­rity,” he told re­porters.

Each side ap­peared dug in even deeper af­ter a White House meet­ing be­tween Trump and Demo­cratic lead­ers on Wednes­day. Trump said he quickly ended the meet­ing af­ter House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in­di­cated that Democrats would not fund his wall un­der any cir­cum­stances.

Mean­while, the pres­i­dent’s Repub­li­can crit­ics are few and far be­tween.

Vice- Pres­i­dent Mike Pence got a stand­ing ova­tion dur­ing a closed­door meet­ing of con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans on Tues­day af­ter he told them to “stand strong” and cited a C. S. Lewis quote on courage as a virtue. As many as two dozen Repub­li­cans — a tiny frac­tion of the 199 Repub­li­cans serv­ing in the House — are ex­pected to join House Democrats this week in pass­ing a bill to start re­open­ing parts of the gov­ern­ment.

There were mod­est signs of dis­com­fort with Trump’s strat­egy among Se­nate Repub­li­cans, though few had a press­ing po­lit­i­cal in­cen­tive to break with the pres­i­dent given that all but a hand­ful ex­pect easy re­elec­tions in 2020.

Sen. John Cornyn, R- Texas, called the shut­down “com­pletely un­nec­es­sary and con­trived. Peo­ple ex­pect their gov­ern­ment to work ... this ob­vi­ously is not work­ing.”

At the same time, newly- elected Sen. Kevin Cramer, R- N. D., was more rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the mood in his cau­cus when he said vot­ers back home be­lieve Trump is do­ing the right thing: “They love him. And they want the wall.”

The GOP sup­port stands in sharp con­trast to most Amer­i­cans, who do not ap­prove of Trump’s job per­for­mance. His ap­proval rat­ing has hov­ered close to 40 per cent or be­low for much of his pres­i­dency. But Trump’s ap­proval within the Repub­li­can Party has surged close to 90 per cent.

The sharp di­vide is re­flected in pub­lic opin­ion of the wall.

Over­all, 54 per cent of Amer­i­cans op­pose con­struc­tion of a wall along the Mex­i­can bor­der, ac­cord­ing to a Quin­nip­iac poll re­leased in De­cem­ber. At the same time, 86 per cent of Repub­li­cans backed the pro­posal.

Those num­bers have helped keep Democrats united in op­po­si­tion.

Both party lead­ers on the Hill and the hand­ful of pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls start­ing to com­pete for the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion have called on Democrats to hold strong.

Alex Bran­don/ AP Photo

U. S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, with Vice- Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, speaks on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton, Wednes­day.

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