Donald Trump, under pressure from all sides to reopen the government in the interest of averting further economic damage (not to mention damage to his approval rating), has caved on the wall.
On Friday, after an extraordinarily tense week that saw the Senate vote on two competing bills (both of which failed) and which featured all manner of bad press documenting the impact of the shutdown on working families, Trump endorsed a temporary agreement to reopen the government.
It does not include money for his wall.
On Thursday evening, after the votes in the Senate (where six Republicans broke rank to vote on the Democrat stopgap bill while only Joe Manchin defected to endorse Trump’s proposal), Chuck Schumer had a heart-to-heart with Mitch McConnell. Following the private meeting, Lindsey Graham suggested the White House was open to a three-week CR on the condition it come with a “down payment” on the wall. Nancy Pelosi immediately shot that down, calling it “not a reasonable agreement.”
Hours later, Schumer’s aides assured the public that no wall money was forthcoming. Around the same time, CNN leaked a draft version of a national emergency declaration which mapped out a plan for Trump to plunder some $7 billion from Treasury forfeiture funds, military construction, Pentagon civil works funds, and Department of Homeland Security funds.
That effectively ratcheted up the pressure on Trump as it raised the specter of a public backlash and scrutiny over exactly what projects would be bereft of funding should he go the national emergency route.
And so, with federal workers missing a second paycheck on Friday and Trump’s own advisors admitting that the shutdown could cause growth to flatline in Q1, the President finally gave in.
“Congressional leaders and President Trump have reached a tentative deal to temporarily reopen the government and continue talks on Trump’s demand for border wall money”, the Washington Post reported on Friday afternoon, adding that “the pact would reopen shuttered government departments for the three weeks while leaving the issue of $5.7 billion for the U.S.-Mexico border wall to further talks.”
Shortly thereafter, Trump showed up in the Rose Garden to make it official. Here he is ‘splainin’ why he decided to abandon his demands for wall money (at least in the very short-term):
So, he started out by threatening to declare a national emergency (again), proceeded to explain just how badly he’s made everyone suffer, claimed that everyone still supports his wall, plugged “MAGA” and, finally, said he’d sign a bill to open the government for three weeks until February 15.
On the wall, he tried to talk his way around the fact that he’s not getting what he wanted by suggesting it’s still in the works in one fashion or another. He then launched into a long-winded defense of “walls” in general and explained why they have historically been so effective. At one point, he reiterated that there would be no 2,000-mile-long concrete wall “from sea to shiny sea” (“shiny”). Note also the reference to “see-through visibility”, a nonsense term. Here’s the pitch (for the hundred-thousandth time):
He also delivered the most absurd version of his “women taped up in vans” story yet. Frankly, this is starting to get weird. It almost sounds like it’s a fantasy of his. This is truly something to behold:
On this one, we’ll just say “promptly remorb-ph them” — just wait for it:
Ultimately, Trump made it clear that if he doesn’t get a deal that’s to his liking by February 15, he will shutter the government again or declare a national emergency.
Feel better? Do note that the administration was already preparing contingency plans for the shutdown to last into March or even April and you can be absolutely sure that immigration hardliners and right-wing pundits are going to go crazy at the prospect that Trump effectively submitted to Nancy Pelosi. That raises the odds that we’ll find ourselves right back in the same spot three weeks from now.
Grab the popcorn, “the ratings will be tremendous.”