Ob­vi­ous end to shut­down

The Progress-Index Weekend - - OPINION -

The shut­down of roughly 25 per­cent of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment con­tin­ued into a ninth day Sun­day, with lit­tle or no ev­i­dence that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and his Demo­cratic op­po­nents on Capi­tol Hill are mov­ing any closer to­ward a deal that would break the im­passe. Of the roughly 800,000 fed­eral work­ers di­rectly af­fected, about 350,000 sit home on fur­lough while the rest, deemed “es­sen­tial,” con­tinue work­ing; none of them can get paid. The hard­ship for them, and for those or­di­nary ci­ti­zens who need ac­cess to agen­cies such as the IRS or the na­tional parks, may last into the new year, even past the start of the new Congress on Jan. 3. This shut­down is per­haps even more sense­less and frus­trat­ing than pre­vi­ous ones be­cause the way out is, and has been, per­fectly ob­vi­ous for weeks.

We’ve said it be­fore, and we’ll say it again: Trump wants money for his pet bor­der-wall project so badly that he’s will­ing to stage a par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down. Democrats should let him have fund­ing for the wall in re­turn for a per­ma­nent fix to the im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus of the “Dream­ers,” peo­ple brought to this coun­try as chil­dren with­out au­tho­riza­tion but who have been liv­ing other­wise law­ful and pro­duc­tive Amer­i­can lives since.

This would be a grand bar­gain that would give both sides some­thing to brag about and, in fact, sim­ply calls on them to do a ver­sion of a deal that Democrats and Repub­li­cans have at least ten­ta­tively em­braced in the past. Trump says he wants to re­solve the Dream­ers’ plight; Democrats have, in the past, voted for en­hanced “bor­der se­cu­rity,” in­clud­ing phys­i­cal bar­ri­ers.

In that sense, there’s no real is­sue of prin­ci­ple pre­vent­ing a bi­par­ti­san deal, just the pol­i­tics of base-pleas­ing po­lar­iza­tion. Congress se­ri­ously en­ter­tained im­mi­gra­tion grand bar­gains with wall-for-dream­ers deals at their core in Feb­ru­ary and March, but the White House un­did them by de­mand­ing ad­di­tional re­stric­tions on le­gal im­mi­gra­tion de­signed to please the Repub­li­can base. That dy­namic still in­forms Trump’s ap­proach to the cur­rent shut­down; his po­si­tion hard­ened after he came un­der at­tack from right-wing per­son­al­i­ties such as Rush Lim­baugh and Ann Coul­ter, who ac­cused him of con­tem­plat­ing a sell­out. Mean­while, on the Demo­cratic side, likely next House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., newly be­holden to left­wing mem­bers of her soon-to-be-ma­jor­ity cau­cus in the House, has branded a wall “im­moral” and has sworn that she won’t ap­prove a dol­lar for it un­der any cir­cum­stances.

Nei­ther side may have as much lever­age in this bat­tle as they think. The risks for the GOP are de­fined by the fact that the bor­der wall re­mains broadly un­pop­u­lar out­side of Trump’s base. As for the Democrats, they feel less pres­sure to deal be­cause of a fed­eral court rul­ing that has pro­tected the Dream­ers from de­por­ta­tion. That rul­ing is by no means per­ma­nent, how­ever, es­pe­cially now that con­ser­va­tives en­joy a solid 5-4 ma­jor­ity on the Supreme Court. A pro­longed bat­tle with Trump over sim­ply fund­ing the gov­ern­ment threat­ens to de­tract from the new House ma­jor­ity’s leg­isla­tive agenda for 2019 be­fore Democrats even have a chance to un­veil it.

Both par­ties are still act­ing as though pro­long­ing a shut­down, and avoid­ing the wall-for-Dream­ers deal, is in their po­lit­i­cal in­ter­est, when in fact it’s the deal that would re­ally ben­e­fit them in the long run. It would also be the right thing to do.

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