With President Donald Trump’s threat to “shut the government down” if he doesn’t get his way, the politics of the border wall have reached an absurd impasse. There is plenty of blame to go around.
Let’s start with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. He has the votes to block debate on a necessary bill to fund the government after Dec. 21, and he refuses to allow a vote if the bill, covering hundreds of billions in federal spending, includes relatively modest sums sought by Mr. Trump to improve border security.
The administration request, $5 billion, is a small fraction of what the government spends in a year. The Democratic counteroffer of $1.3 billion — with no funds for construction of a wall — clearly does not meet the president’s request. But a number between those two figures would likely do it if the Democrats want to compromise.
The Democrats have dug themselves into an unyielding position on the symbolism of a wall. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has called it “immoral.”
For his part, President Trump has been equally unyielding, although his supporters in Congress believe he would accept a reasonable compromise on the size of the budget item if offered.
The trio showed little appetite for com-promise Tuesday as they sparred during
an Oval Office meeting. The on-camera
discussion at times became personal and biting.
Behind this show of intransigence is the division between the two political parties over immigration law reform. Broadly speaking the Republican approach seeks to make it harder for both illegal and legal immigration from Central America and to ease immigration from the rest of the world on a selective basis. Democrats appear to prefer something like the existing system of immigration preferences and less-restrictive border controls than the Republicans.
At this stage it seems that both sides would rather take the issue to the polls than find a point of agreement.
Secure borders are absolutely necessary for the safety of Americans. But it is ridiculous to shut down the government over these differences.
This shutdown drama is more evidence that Congress is not performing its duty to fund on a regular and predictable basis the government it has created. The system that has taken the place of “regular order” forces repeated delays and temporary funding bills. That makes it hard to manage government programs efficiently, including the military budget, and does not serve the taxpayers’ interest in getting value for their sacrifices to pay for the government.
It also diverts attention toward short-term issues and away from the unwillingness of Congress to adopt spending and tax reforms aimed at bringing unsustainable deficits under control.
It is time for Americans of all political persuasions to say they are fed up with
this irresponsible and destructive approach to government and put pressure on both parties to work together for the national interest instead of engaging in partisan bickering.