Democrats sup­ported wall be­fore they were against it

The Sentinel-Record - - OPINIONS - Marc A. Thiessen

WASH­ING­TON — Bar­ring some mirac­u­lous break­through, on Satur­day the current gov­ern­ment shut­down will be­come 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. In Wash­ing­ton, that is con­sid­ered a round­ing er­ror.

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 com­mon-sense re­form that I — and many oth­ers — have re­peat­edly laid out” (em­pha­sis added). 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, say­ing at the time that “ev­ery piece of this leg­is­la­tion has had bi­par­ti­san sup­port” (em­pha­sis added). 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. As Obama said at the time, “the bi­par­ti­san bill that passed to­day was a com­pro­mise.” But to­day, Democrats are re­fus­ing to com­pro­mise or lay out what con­ces­sions they would ac­cept in ex­change for wall fund­ing. When Trump rhetor­i­cally backed off the wall and talked about “steel slats” — a fence — Democrats ig­nored it. When Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence re­port­edly of­fered a deal for $2.5 bil­lion, Democrats dis­missed it. In a White House meet­ing Wed­nes­day, Trump asked Pelosi whether, if he agreed to end the shut­down and ne­go­ti­ate sep­a­rately on bor­der se­cu­rity, she would sup­port wall fund­ing. She said no. That is ridicu­lous.

In their re­sponse to the pres­i­dent’s ad­dress to the na­tion, Schumer and Pelosi ac­cused Trump of “man­u­fac­tur­ing a cri­sis.” That is simply untrue. As The Post re­ported this week, the United States now faces “a bona fide emer­gency on the bor­der” as “record num­bers of mi­grant fam­i­lies are stream­ing into the United States, over­whelm­ing bor­der agents and leav­ing hold­ing cells dan­ger­ously over­crowded with chil­dren, many of whom are fall­ing sick.”

Democrats could not pos­si­bly be in a bet­ter po­si­tion to de­mand con­ces­sions form Trump if they had man­u­fac­tured a cri­sis. So put some de­mands on the ta­ble, for cry­ing out loud. If Democrats think they have Trump cor­nered, then squeeze him and try get a lot out of him. 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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