The countdown is on. Congress now has just over two weeks to pass a longer-term funding bill with sufficient resources for border security. While it is entirely possible that Congress could come to an agreement and pass a bill that includes funding for the wall, prior history makes that prospect feel increasingly bleak.
Even though Nancy Pelosi saw the largest increase in negatives during the shutdown, it became immediately evident that she felt empowered after President Donald Trump signed the three-week Continuing Resolution. During a joint news conference with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer after a deal to open the government had been reached, both Pelosi and Schumer mocked Trump, stating they have been clear about no wall and that they “hoped the president learned his lesson.”
At this point, it’s hard to imagine Pelosi changing her tune on a wall she’s previously called “immoral,” or radical Democrats pivoting to support something they’ve call a “medieval vanity project.” Despite not ruling out another shutdown for negotiation purposes, it would be the least palatable option for the administration. This means the president must work fast to win over the American people before he may be forced to declare a state of emergency if he wants adequate funding for border security.
The problem with Trump declaring a state of emergency is the inevitable challenge awaiting in the courts. We’ve regularly seen political opponents use forum shopping within the American judicial system as a way to stymie Trump policies with which they disagree.
Even some in the GOP have criticized the possibility of Trump declaring a state of emergency. Within hours, we can expect to see a challenge to the emergency declaration show up in the Ninth Circuit. The best option for the White House is to avoid declaring a state of emergency altogether if possible.
So where does that leave Trump and his administration? It gives them three weeks to use public support to their advantage. As more of the truth on border security gets out to the public, the public support for the president’s policies grow.
By growing public support for his border security message, Trump can put additional pressure on Democrats. There are dozens of congressional Democrats who have previously indicated support for a border wall or who got elected in 2018 on a message of compromise that could be targets for the White House. Not to mention several Democrats in the Senate have indicated a willingness to support a border wall.
The upcoming State of the Union provides a national audience to highlight Democratic hypocrisy and frame the discussion on border security in the GOP’s favor.
In his speech, expect Trump to highlight that Democrats voted to give President Obama billions more for border security, including funding for hundreds of miles of border walls. Additionally, expect him to discuss how Republicans voted multiple times during the shutdown to pay federal workers, a concern Democrats were constantly espousing, only to have the votes fail due to lack of Democratic support. Everything in the compromise proposal issued by the White House has been either introduced, cosponsored, or supported by Democrats before.
Further, Trump can tout the flexibility in his approach to border security and willingness to compromise in order to reach a deal with Democrats. An idea that started as a large concrete wall has evolved over time after meetings with experts and those on the front lines.
The White House border security policy now consists of steel slats only in areas where CPB have indicated need, funding for humanitarian aid, and increases in CBP agents and immigration judges. The president has also made several offers of compromise, including offering protected status for DACA and TPS recipients. Even though this is something Democrats have been eager to pass, Democratic leadership only managed to respond to the president’s proposals with a measly “no.”
Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi told Trump to open the government and in return offered to negotiate with him in good faith. To date, they have shown no desire to negotiate or compromise, only set in their rigid opposition. The president took Democrats’ at their word when they offered to negotiate in good faith. In the coming weeks, we will see if that word is backed by integrity or nothing more than empty promises.
As the saying goes: “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Yet, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have proven on countless occasions that they have no shame. Don’t expect President Trump to be fooled by false intimations of good faith from Democrats. The options this time are clear: good faith negotiations resulting in a secure border or prepare for emergency.
Evan Berryhill is a former communications staffer for Rep. David B. McKinley. Currently, Evan is a law student at West Virginia University and works as an opinion writer and political commentator.
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