Sunday, January 27, 2019

A Stinging Defeat for President Trump

Actually, I'm glad the government reopened. I just wish it had been the Democrats who caved.

This feels like a real turning point in Trump's presidency, mostly it's really the one time I think he's seriously hurt politically. Democrats were gloating, as I would have been too, given both the stakes and polarization. But more importantly, Trump's capitulation, especially after the longest shutdown, hurt him with the base --- yes, even folks who've been die-hard Trump supporters were turned off by the long impasse.

If there's no deal on this supposed set of congressional conference negotiations, Trump will either deploy the Army Corps of Engineers or blow off any hopes of reelection.

We'll see.

At NYT, "For a President Consumed With Winning, a Stinging Defeat":

WASHINGTON — President Trump famously declared that in his administration the nation would become tired of all the winning. So on Friday he tried a little losing.

After the longest government shutdown in history, Mr. Trump surrendered with nothing concrete (or steel) to show for the battle, taking essentially the same deal that was on the table in December that he originally rejected, touching off a 35-day impasse.

With Senator Mitch McConnell on the telephone, rank-and-file Republicans in revolt and televisions in the White House showing air traffic slowing in the Northeast because of the shutdown, Mr. Trump bowed to the inevitable and agreed to reopen the government until Feb. 15 without the money for his border wall that he had demanded.

For a president who believes in zero-sum politics and considers compromise a sign of weakness, it was a bruising setback, a retreat that underscored the limits of his ability to bull his way through the opposition in this new era of divided government. As it turned out, the art of the deal at this stage of Mr. Trump’s presidency requires a different approach and the question is whether he can adjust.

“By any measure, it was an unequivocal loss,” said Patrick J. Griffin, who was the White House legislative director for President Bill Clinton during the government shutdowns of the 1990s. “No interpretation is needed. No wall and probably lost votes rather than gain or strengthen his base.”

The next three weeks will test whether Mr. Trump can rebound as he faces a new deadline to come up with an agreement. If he can find common ground with Democrats led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer while making progress on his wall, he may yet emerge from this searing ordeal claiming a political victory.

If not, however, he may discover his disgruntled fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill less willing to go along with a renewed government shutdown, forcing him to decide whether to provoke a constitutional clash by declaring a national emergency to bypass Congress altogether and build the wall without legislative approval.

White House officials argue that there are more moderate House Democrats who are willing to support a wall even though Ms. Pelosi has called the project “immoral” and opposed spending even a single dollar on it. In the days to come, they hope to either peel off those Democrats and force Ms. Pelosi to meet somewhere in the middle or to drive a wedge among Democrats highlighting their own divisions.

“Moving forward for the next three weeks, have the Democrats boxed themselves into a corner with zero for wall funding that makes them look weak on border security?” asked Marc Short, who was Mr. Trump’s White House legislative director earlier in his presidency. “Will the White House be able to work around Pelosi to gain enough Democrat support for some wall funding?”

After watching Ms. Pelosi this week disinvite Mr. Trump from delivering the State of the Union address while the government remained closed, Mr. McConnell concluded that she would never cave and decided to come off the sidelines to try to end the standoff. He scheduled votes for Thursday on two plans to end the stalemate, one on Mr. Trump’s terms and another Democratic version, mainly to demonstrate to the president that he did not have enough support to prevail.

After both bills failed to muster the 60 votes required for passage on Thursday, Mr. Trump was fed up and ready to get it over with, according to advisers. He was eager to get the dispute resolved at least temporarily so he could deliver his State of the Union address. He told Vice President Mike Pence and Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, to give him options.

They came back with four ways to reopen the government: a three-week spending bill that included a prorated portion of money as a down payment on the border wall pending further negotiations; a “clean” short-term spending bill that included no such money; a clean short-term bill with a bipartisan House-Senate conference committee to negotiate border security; or a declaration of national emergency that Mr. Trump would use to move money on his own while resuming government operations for the rest of the fiscal year...
Still more.

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