Some Democrat lawmakers are losing their will to fight on in the ongoing stalemate with President Trump over border wall funding that has partially shuttered the federal government since before Christmas.
The GOP-controlled House of Representatives voted 217 to 185 on Dec. 20 for a spending bill with $5.7 billion for the wall. The measure floundered in the Senate and the partial shutdown began Dec. 22. The Senate remains in Republican hands but the House is now controlled by Democrats.
The president’s negotiations with Democrats over the $5 billion needed to begin construction of the border wall have gone nowhere largely because of Democrat intransigence –leadership in the House refuses even to meet with the president at the White House—and the federal government continues to be partially shut down for lack of appropriated funds. Although pressure on Trump has been growing, the president has vowed to keep the shutdown going as long as it takes to secure funding for the wall.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who barely won the House speakership after an internal party revolt, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), vow to prevent Trump from securing any funding for a wall along the nation’s multi-state border with Mexico.
Pelosi’s lieutenant, House Majority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), said Democrats are solid in their opposition to negotiating with the president on the wall. “We are totally united — totally,” Hoyer reportedly said.
But that claim of unity is nonsense, according to Matthew Boyle of Breitbart News.
“In fact, many Democrats–particularly the newly elected freshmen–want to negotiate with Trump on the wall, and they are saying so publicly while expressing their disdain for Pelosi and her fellow leaders,” Boyle writes.
Freshman Rep. Jared Golden (D-Me.), is urging his party’s leaders to negotiate with Trump and the Republicans. Democrat leaders and Trump need “to stop hiding and show a little leadership” to bring the longest-lasting federal government shutdown in the nation’s history to an end, he said.
Freshman Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) said “there’s a number of us on the Democratic side who are quite concerned that we’re not working on negotiated positions and taking the bull by the horns and trying to think about what it would look like.”
Freshman Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.) told local media he was “sick and tired” of government shutdowns being used “as a form of brinksmanship—a tool of negotiation.”
“All we’ve done in the House is repass the Senate bill,” he said. “Now that will allow us some freedom, some space, some real debate. The Senate though has to show their independence. I just got out of a bruising fight with my House leadership … Let’s open the government back up and let’s get back to work.”
Freshman Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.), acknowledged he has been defying Pelosi and negotiating directly with GOP lawmakers.
“I’ve been meeting with several representatives from across the country, both Democrats and Republicans,” Brindisi said. “And I’ve been trying to force leadership on both sides of the aisle to work out a compromise to this shutdown.”
“If you listen to all the experts, they’ll say some elements of physical barriers where it makes sense are in order,” he said. “We need more border agents, we need more technology at our border crossings and ports of entries so trucks and shipping containers are inspected before coming into our country.”
Freshman Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), is taking heat from her constituents.
“If I am getting comments and contact from my constituents expressing concern that the Democrats are not prioritizing security, then I think we can do better,” she said.
Freshman Rep. Colin Allred (D-Texas), said he would consider supporting appropriations needed to build the wall.
“I’m not going to rule anything out, I really am not,” he said.
Freshman Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.), said she is optimistic a deal can be brokered.
“I hope that we can all come to a compromise because that’s the way things get done,” she said. “If we don’t compromise, the American people are the ones who get hurt. Right now, they are hanging in the balance.”
Freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.) said he would vote for wall funding.
“If I had the opportunity to vote for some sort of a deal, I would,” he said. “I think if we work on the border security, in my opinion, the president would be willing to work on some of these other issues.”
Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) told Vice News that plenty of Democrats outside the freshman cohort are bucking Pelosi’s refusal to negotiate.
“I think we all want to see DACA protections, so I think there’s an opportunity to, if they give something — it’s called negotiation, right?” Bera said. “Give us a chance to protect the Dreamers; maybe we can give something on border security.”
Some in the House Democrat leadership are also diverging from Pelosi’s position.
Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) said some kind of border barrier is necessary.
“If we have a partial wall, if we have fencing, if we have technology used to keep our border safe, all of that is fine,” Bustos, who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), said on CNN last week.
Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), vice chairman of the House Democrat conference, said on MSNBC that a barrier of some kind would work in parts of the U.S.-Mexico border. “You know, I think there are parts of the border that would benefit from repairing fencing and other barricades that already exist there,” she said.
For his part, President Trump has said he is willing to fulfill his signature campaign promise by declaring a national emergency under federal law so the government can finally move forward with building a desperately needed wall on the nation’s porous southern boundary with Mexico.
Legal experts say the president has the authority to declare an emergency and invoke a federal statute called the National Emergencies Act that President Gerald Ford signed into law on Sept. 14, 1976.
President Trump has already invoked the National Emergencies Act three times in his tenure, according to ABC News. President Barack Obama invoked the statute no fewer than 10 times.
But the next move belongs to House Democrats.