As the clock runs out on Republican control of the House of Representatives, President Donald Trump is making an aggressive last stand to secure critical funding for a wall to protect the nation’s porous border with Mexico.
With Democrats poised to take over the House in early January, it’s now or never for the wall.
As the Washington Post’s David Nakamura –no Trump cheerleader— writes:
Since the day he announced his White House candidacy, President Trump has wielded calls for a border wall as a political cudgel, a bargaining chip and a rallying cry — a tangible symbol, if completed, of his nationalist aim to ‘Make America Great Again.’
The fight over the wall “has reached a moment of truth as he confronts the reality that, with Democrats poised to control the House in January, this could be his last chance to make good on a promise that has become an existential part of his presidency.”
Conservative writer Ann Coulter tweeted that the president holds “all the cards” in the negotiations but gave the odds at 50-50 that he would “cave.”
“If he doesn’t at least force a shutdown for some time, I don’t see how he can go into 2020 and blame Democrats” over the wall, said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. “Everyone would say, ‘Of course, they are your opponents, but you didn’t really even try.’”
Trump’s drive to secure the border was highlighted in a dramatic Oval Office meeting this week with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
It was a fine example of political theater that, in Nakamura’s words, “stunned a Beltway political class that has grown accustomed to Trump’s daily bouts of showmanship.”
More importantly it was an important sighting by that rarest of birds – a Republican who doesn’t cave in the face of political opposition from the Left.
The most transparent president in modern American history unexpectedly asked reporters and camera crews into the room to witness the negotiations, which turned into an intense shouting match between Trump and the Democratic leaders.
“I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck,” Trump said.
Because the people of this country don’t want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into this country. So I will take the mantle, I will be the one to shut it down. I won’t blame you for it.
Democrats still haven’t recovered from the shock of being humiliated and outmaneuvered live on nationwide television by someone they routinely deride as a dimwitted blowhard.
After the meeting Schumer urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to rein Trump in.
“It is difficult, if nearly impossible, to negotiate with a president in front of the press who peddles such blatant and dangerous falsehoods,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “And because Leader Pelosi and I simply didn't go along with him, President Trump threw a temper tantrum and promised to shut the government unless he got what he wanted.”
Pelosi, who is expected next month to return to her role as Speaker of the House when Democrats take control of that chamber, mocked Trump behind closed doors.
“It’s like a manhood thing for him. As if manhood could ever be associated with him. This wall thing,” she reportedly told members of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee.
Pelosi also delighted in the fact that the president said he would “proudly” accept responsibility for a government shutdown.
“But the fact is we did get him to say, to fully own that the shutdown was his,” Pelosi said. “That was an accomplishment."
“It was so wild,” Pelosi told her colleagues. “It goes to show you: You get into a tinkle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you.”
But Trump’s door remains open.
"The president is still interested in trying to get a deal," House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are negotiating furiously to avoid partially shutting down the federal government on Dec. 21 when it runs out of funding. Democrats have agreed to include $1.6 billion for border security in the spending package, but Trump is holding out for the $5 billion he has long sought to build a wall on the nation’s multi-state border with Mexico.
The chances of a partial shutdown Dec. 21 are good, said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
"I don't think it's inevitable. It's probably more than possible right now," Shelby said. "It'll shut down unless we resolve some things."