Democrats were for a wall be­fore they were against it

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Opinion - BY MARC A. THIESSEN Wash­ing­ton Post Writ­ers Group

Bar­ring some break­through, on Satur­day the cur­rent gov­ern­ment shut­down be­came the long­est in Amer­i­can his­tory. But it has al­ready hit an­other his­toric mile­stone: It is, by far and away, the stu­pid­est gov­ern­ment shut­down in Amer­i­can his­tory.

In 2019, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment will spend a whop­ping $4.407 tril­lion. Yet Congress and the pres­i­dent are shut­ting down the gov­ern­ment in a dis­pute be­tween the $1.3 bil­lion the Democrats have ap­proved for bor­der se­cu­rity and the $5.7 bil­lion the pres­i­dent is de­mand­ing – pre­cisely 0.0998 per­cent of the to­tal fed­eral bud­get.

Worse, Democrats are do­ing it over a bor­der wall strik­ingly sim­i­lar to one that they al­most unan­i­mously sup­ported just five years ago. While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., now says that “a wall is an im­moral­ity,” back in 2013, she sup­ported a bill that re­quired the con­struc­tion of 700 miles of bor­der fenc­ing. (Trump has called for a wall of “any­where from 700 to 900 miles” long.) The bill ne­go­ti­ated by the Gang of Eight, which in­cluded cur­rent Demo­cratic lead­ers Sens. Charles Schumer, N.Y., and Dick Durbin, Ill., de­clared that “not later than 180 days af­ter the date of the en­act­ment of this Act, the Sec­re­tary (of Home­land Se­cu­rity) shall es­tab­lish ... the ‘South­ern Bor­der Fenc­ing Strat­egy,’ to iden­tify where 700 miles of fenc­ing (in­clud­ing dou­ble-layer fenc­ing) ... should be de­ployed along the South­ern bor­der.”

That’s not all. The bill fur­ther said that “the Sec­re­tary may not ad­just the sta­tus of aliens who have been granted reg­is­tered pro­vi­sional im­mi­grant sta­tus ... un­til 6 months af­ter ... (the Sec­re­tary sub­mits) a writ­ten cer­ti­fi­ca­tion that ... there is in place along the South­ern Bor­der no fewer than 700 miles of pedes­trian fenc­ing.” In other words, Democrats agreed that no il­le­gal im­mi­grants could get a path to cit­i­zen­ship un­til all 700 miles of bor­der fenc­ing had been fully com­pleted.

Ev­ery Se­nate Demo­crat voted for the Gang of Eight bill – in­clud­ing 36 Demo­cratic se­na­tors still serv­ing to­day. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama agreed to sign it. In­deed, he praised the bill for in­clud­ing what he called “the most ag­gres­sive bor­der se­cu­rity plan in our his­tory” and said that “the Se­nate bill is con­sis­tent with the key prin­ci­ples for com­mon­sense re­form that I – and many oth­ers – have re­peat­edly laid out.” That bears re­peat­ing: Obama said build­ing a 700-mile fence on the south­ern bor­der was con­sis­tent with the prin­ci­ples of the Demo­cratic Party.

Pelosi sup­ported the Gang of Eight bill. But now we are shut­ting down the gov­ern­ment over a wall much like the one that Pelosi and Se­nate Democrats fully sup­ported just five years ago?

Democrats will ob­ject that the Gang of Eight bill did fund a bor­der wall, but it was in ex­change for a lot of con­ces­sions. Of course it was. But to­day, Democrats are re­fus­ing to com­pro­mise or lay out what con­ces­sions they would ac­cept in ex­change for wall fund­ing.

Democrats could not pos­si­bly be in a bet­ter po­si­tion to de­mand con­ces­sions from Trump if they had man­u­fac­tured a cri­sis. So put some de­mands on the ta­ble, for cry­ing out loud. But don’t refuse to ne­go­ti­ate and tell us the wall is an “im­moral­ity” – be­cause their vot­ing his­tory shows they don’t be­lieve that.

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