24 hours before this editorial went live, congressional negotiators were trying hard to avoid another “partial shutdown” of the United States government. Both Republicans and Democrats concurred that if they couldn’t agree on a budget proposal by Monday, February 11th, it stood no chance of being passed in both the House and Senate in time to be on the President’s desk for a signature by February 15th — the day the last government funding bill expires.
The reality is that a second shutdown seems inevitable even in the unlikely scenario a budget agreement is reached before this article goes live. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has already promised that no budget will pass that chamber with funding for Donald Trump’s long promised, incredibly racist and highly xenophobic border wall between the U.S. and Mexico – not $5.7 billion in funding, not $5.70 in funding, ZERO. In turn Trump has threatened to declare a national emergency if Congress won’t give him all of the funding he has asked for. Put simply that means that even if a budget passed both the House and Senate without what he asked for, he’d simply veto the bill and cause another shutdown, then try to bypass Congress altogether.
The only thing that has stopped Trump thus far is the knowledge that any such executive action on his part is likely to be challenged both by Congress and in the court system. This means the chance he could use the power of declaring a national emergency to divert funds allocated to disaster relief in Puerto Rico and other funds from the Department of Defense is limited at best. As you’re already aware though Trump is no stranger to courting controversy, bucking convention, and doing the UN-Presidential at every turn. He would sooner try to broaden his Presidential powers to that of an Emperor or Dictator rather than admit he doesn’t have either Congressional or public support for his ill-advised wall.
Some would decry the political stalemate between the Democratic and Republic party as yet another case of “Washington gridlock.” In this case though I would argue that it’s EXACTLY what the voters hoped for last November. Trump had long enjoyed an unchecked use of Presidential power thanks to a Republican controlled Congress and scant opposition from his own party no matter how egregious or offensive he became. By sweeping the House and taking the majority, the Democrats have become the only bulwark against a fatuous tyrant running roughshod over the majority of Americans who don’t share his beliefs and recant his racist rhetoric. Speaker Pelosi knows the power she holds both figuratively and literally, and she’s one step away from the Presidency if something happened to both Trump and Mike Pence at the same time (which is why historically the President and Vice President never travel together). She is the will of the people, and the people are tired of Trump’s crap, so gridlock it is.
Until the Fathead-in-Chief finally learns he can’t buy or bully his way out of any problem he encounters, gridlock can and SHOULD be the new norm for Congress. This is of course not preferable when it comes to another partial government shutdown, but it is necessary to show POTUS 45 that he no longer holds the winning hand nor can dictate terms on what the government can and should do. Unless he can accept zero funding for his border wall, which is exactly what he’ll get from the Speaker, there’s nothing he can do. The Democrats in the House are not going to yield their newfound authority to the most unpopular President since Nixon, while his own Senators have already shown they’ll cross the aisle to end a shutdown if it occurs again. He can deliver all of the State of the Union and White House addresses he wants, fume and rage IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS on Twitter all he wants, but there’s nothing he can do other than declare an emergency and hope his own party won’t revolt. If they care one whit about our democracy they will recognize that a President is not an Emperor and can’t simply decree that his will be done.
UPDATE: It appears a deal was actually reached but it will still be up to Congress to pass it and Trump to sign it. I’m not holding my breath.