What happens when the government shuts down?
Here’s an idea: What if Congress gave President Donald Trump billions of dollars in play money to build a people-repelling invisible shield along the southern border, then put some real money into real solutions?
Would that placate the toddler in chief, and, more important, the right-wing pundits whom he let goad him into shutting down a third of the federal government, including the Department for Homeland Security?
Some 800,000 employees, are on unpaid furlough or, like Border Patrol officers, working without pay due to the shutdown, the third in 13 months while Republicans control the White House and Congress.
What Congress must not do is accede to Trump’s ever-changing demands. Remember his wall was first going to be made of concrete and paid for by Mexico, while more recently Trump is tweeting out his desire for a “Steel Slate Barrier which is totally effective while at the same time beautiful!” to be paid for by U.S. taxpayers
A campaign gimmick, Trump’s notion of a border wall always has been a boondoggle in waiting.
As quickly as possible, Congress should reopen the government with a funding measure that responds to real border needs, including those recently described by the head of Customs and Border Protection.
In response to two immigrant children dying this month, one on Christmas Eve, while in U.S. custody, CBP Commissioner Kevin V. McAleenan is calling for more money to handle the influx of families.
McAleenan explained that Border Patrol stations were built 30 to 40 years ago to accommodate single adult men. “We need help from Congress. We need to budget for medical care and mental health care for children in our facilities.”
Congress must also force an end to the intentional bottlenecks created by the Trump administration at official points of entry. The orchestrated bottlenecks are one reason immigrants are crossing illegally in more remote areas. Congress also must beef up staffing to process applications for asylum in accordance with U.S. law.
You can argue that parents should not expose their children to the dangers of a desert crossing or human smugglers. But you can’t blame children for their parents’ actions or the violence and poverty driving families from their countries of birth. The U.S. has the capacity to respond humanely and responsibly to these human facts on the ground, and should.
Trump is pressuring Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnelll to approve wall funding by ending the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to pass major legislation. While McConnell voiced support for giving Trump his wall money, McConnell’s office made it clear that he and other Senate Republicans oppose ending the 60-vote requirement.
Much of what Trump has been saying about the wall is, to put it charitably, fanciful. He’s claimed credit for stretches of fence that have been in place for decades; recently he falsely claimed he’d just signed contracts for 115 miles of new border wall.
Given his penchant for such fantasies, play money for an invisible wall just might do the trick.