One of the most mind-numbingly absurd spin games that President Donald Trump and his allies like to play on immigration is to pretend that Democrats are the only ones standing in the way of realizing his Great Border Wall fantasy.
In his disastrous Oval Office meeting with Democratic leaders, Trump blustered that House Republicans could pass the $5 billion he’s currently demanding for the wall “very easily.”
This was supposed to increase pressure on Democrats to supply the votes to get Trump’s request through the Senate. But Democrats have shrugged, and have stuck with their insistence on much less in border security funding, with restrictions that prevent it from being spent on Trump’s wall.
Here’s the reality, Mr. President. Politico reports that House Republicans are now mulling a two-week stopgap funding bill that would keep the government open into January. It’s unclear whether Trump will accept this as a way out, but what’s notable here is why Republicans are considering this option:
“Republican lawmakers are signaling to the president that he is unlikely to get the wall funding he is seeking, according to a senior House Republican source. Instead, Trump’s going to have to decide whether to strike a deal that could create positive momentum with a new Congress or poison the well with many members who will have the power to torment him when Democrats take control of the House next year.
“A second Republican source on Capitol Hill said that the White House could still have its border wall fight in January and also disrupt the new Democratic majority in the House from starting fresh with their own agenda. It would also more clearly pit Trump against Democrats, rather than members of his own party.”
What this really means is that Republicans are basically imploring Trump to take the money that’s currently being offered to him, and find some way of claiming victory. This theoretically shouldn’t be hard for Trump to do, since he regularly declares he’s winning no matter how overwhelming the evidence grows to the contrary. Indeed, the wall is the best example of this: Trump constantly claims (falsely) that the wall is actually being built, and he even sometimes still maintains that Mexico is paying for it, as he decreed -- while somehow simultaneously blasting Democrats for denying him the money he needs to build it, a contradiction that doesn’t appear to trouble his supporters much.
As Politico reports, Republicans are even trying to persuade Trump to accept this deal by arguing to him that he’s better off going to war over this with Democrats in January, because he can knock the new majority off of its game before it gets started. Never mind the obvious problem with this — that at that point, Democrats will be in the majority, meaning it will be harder still for him to get his way with the House, not easier.
What is clear is that Republicans want this to be likely incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s problem, not theirs, and they’re trying to sell Trump on this by telling him that he’ll totally be able to own her, no really you will, Mr. President, because you’re strong and powerful and awesome.
As we’ve already learned, Republicans feel boxed in by Trump’s demand that they pass his wall funding, and they’re reluctant to hold this vote. First, even if they do pass a measure with $5 billion in wall funding, it faces certain defeat in the Senate.
Second, some Republicans worry that it might not even pass the House, because there are plenty of House moderates who lost in November who might now be all that inclined to help Trump out here, since he’s why they lost. More to the point, some GOP strategists have even concluded that Trump’s closing message of xenophobic fearmongering over the border also contributed to their defeat.
Sure, Democrats aren’t going to give Trump his wall. But a number of Republicans don’t seem to want to, either.
Let me remind you, by the way, that last February, the Senate voted on four immigration packages, including one that reflected Trump’s wish list, complete with $25 billion for his wall.
Guess which one got the fewest votes, with numerous Republicans voting against it?