Congressmen Waver While Trump And Pelosi Refuse To Compromise On Shutdown

It’s Day 21 of the government shutdown and there is no end in sight. As of today, the shutdown is tied with the 1995-96 shutdown as the longest in history. The leadership of both parties is resolute. Both President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have dug in and refused to compromise from their respective positions. Not everyone is happy among the party rank and file, however.

In the most recent House votes on compromise bills to reopen the government, 12 Republicans joined with House Democrats in voting to fully fund the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (HR 267). Previously, 10 Republicans had voted to fund parts of the government. In Thursday’s vote, they were joined by Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH), the most recent chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL). Stivers and Davis did not join the 10 other Republicans in a separate vote to reopen the Department of Agriculture (HR 265).

The number of disaffected Republicans is growing. On Wednesday’s votes, Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) joined with another eight Republicans who had earlier voted to fund the government. The eight who have consistently voted in favor of funding are Reps. Will Hurd (R-TX), Greg Walden (R-OR), Fred Upton (R-MI), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), John Katko (R-NY) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). Greg Walden was the chairman of the RCCC from 2014 through 2016.

Although both bills passed the House, they will die in the Senate where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to take any action on a bill that Trump would not sign. President Trump has refused to waver on his demand for $5 billion for his wall project, about one-fifth of the estimated total that would be required, and Democrats have offered only $1.3 billion for border security funding that excludes the wall. Pelosi joked with reporters that she would only appropriate one dollar for the wall, adding, “We’re not doing a wall. Does anybody have any doubt about that?”

Despite Pelosi’s show of resolve, some Democrats are wavering as well. Politico reported on Wednesday that some freshman House Democrats were “freaking out” about the shutdown and the party’s strategy. A senior Democratic aide blamed some of the anxiety on the fact that some new congressmen didn’t have their offices and emails set up and were not receiving communications from Speaker Pelosi.

Nevertheless, some are feeling the heat from 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,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.).

Even if some Democrats have misgivings, so far, they have not had the opportunity to break ranks with their party. The only funding bills active are the partial funding bills passed by the House that reopen individual departments of the federal government. The dynamics of the shutdown are that funding bills originate in the Democrat-controlled House. Since McConnell is quashing votes in the Senate, that means that Republicans have more chances to cross the aisle than Democrats.

If McConnell decides to allow the House funding bills to be considered in the Senate, it is highly likely that they would pass easily. The bigger question is whether the Senate would have enough votes to override a probable veto from the president.

As the shutdown stretches on, the effects are starting to pile up like trash in the unstaffed national parks. Federal workers are missing a payday today. That has rippling effects throughout the country as local federal employees may be unable to pay their bills and about $2.2 billion in consumer spending is withheld from the economy. Even the Coast Guard and air traffic controllers are affected. Some services, such as the ability to obtain passports from the State Department are already closed and, if the shutdown stretches on others, such as tax refunds, may be delayed.

The shutdown will continue until one side blinks. So far, neither President Trump nor Speaker Pelosi has given any indication of budging from their positions. The compromise to end the shutdown will have to come from members of Congress who feel the pressure from their constituents. Pelosi’s San Francisco seat is safe, but many other congressmen and senators represent swing districts and states. They will be ready to make a deal and, because Republicans are more vulnerable after the last midterms, the odds are that it will not include a wall.

At this point, Mitch McConnell is the key. If McConnell stays strong and protects the president then the shutdown could last indefinitely. However, polling already shows that voters blame Trump for the shutdown and oppose both the shutdown tactic and the wall. If and when McConnell determines that Trump’s shutdown is endangering the Republican majority in the Senate, he could easily allow a vote and put Trump in the position of having to veto funding without a wall or backing down.

Family Arrests At Border Hit Record High For Fourth Straight Month

Arrests of families of illegal immigrants at the Mexican border in December reached a record high for the fourth month in a row. Per data from Customs and Border Protection, arrests of families along the southern border have set new records for the past four consecutive months.

CNN reports that the CBP arrested 27,518 family members in December 2018. This represents an increase of nearly 240% from December 2017, which had 8,120 arrests. CBP statistics show an increase in family arrests on the border since August 2018. Arrest statistics are considered to be a measure of illegal border crossings under the assumption that more arrests will be made if more crossings are attempted.

The CBP website contains a prominent notice saying, “ Due to the lapse in federal funding, this website will not be actively managed,” and “This website was last updated on December 21, 2018, and will not be updated until after funding is enacted.” The statistics presented by CNN apparently reflect numbers that are not yet available on the CBP website due to the government shutdown.

While arrests of Family Unit Aliens (FMUA) have increased in recent months, total arrests have decreased slightly. Total arrests on the southwest border were 50,753 in December, slightly fewer than the 51,856 in November. Border traffic often decreases in December due to holidays and colder weather.

The shift seems to represent a changing pattern of illegal immigration across the Mexican border. Illegal border crossings reached a 46-year low in 2017 and have not increased appreciably since. While the total number of illegal border crossings is low by historical standards, families are making up a larger share of those who do cross the border.

The larger number of families and children at the border is overwhelming the ability of CBP to house and care for them. Yet out of the thousands of arrests at the southern border, only six were suspected terrorists compared with 41 at the Canadian border. The crisis at the border is a humanitarian crisis rather than a national security crisis.

CBP Commissioner Kevin McAlleenan agrees that the big problem at the border is dealing with the volume of families and minors. McAlleenan told ABC News in December 2018, “The — the humanitarian crisis we’re facing — that means there are 60,000 people crossing the border each month — each of the last three months. That’s 30,000 families, 5,000 kids per month. That means we’re going to have 22,000 children come through our system, a system built for adults who are violators of the law. Now they’re coming in to border patrol stations as young children. So that — that’s a huge crisis.”

“The breaking point at the border is because of the volume,” McAlleenan added, noting that a 2015 case upheld by the 9th Circuit in 2016 led to the current problem of being unable to complete immigration proceedings for immigrants that arrived with children. The decision created an incentive for illegal immigrants to bring their children across the border.

“So basically, that sent a signal, if you arrive with a child, you’ll be able to stay in the United States,” McAlleenan said. “And that’s why we’ve seen continued growth month after month of people coming with children.”

One of the big questions of the hour is whether the humanitarian crisis provides sufficient grounds for President Trump to use his executive authority to declare a national emergency and bypass Congress to fund construction for the wall. The answer is almost certainly no.

Illegal immigration across the southwest border is currently very low by historical standards. The CBP website, which may have incomplete data, puts total arrests along the Mexican border at 396,579 for 2018. That’s more than the 2017 total of 310,531 but far less than the 1.6 million arrests from 2000 or the 723,825 who were arrested 10 years ago in 2008 (CBP data going back to 2000 can be viewed here).

The illegal immigration problem that we face today is very different from the one that we faced 20 years ago. In 2015, Pew Research reported that the Mexican immigration wave was ending as more Mexicans left the US than entered. Today, the CBP statistics note that arrests of Mexican families along the border are far fewer than those from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras. This reduction in immigration from Mexico is partly due to the creation of more economic opportunity in Mexico by NAFTA as well as the deterioration of conditions in Central America.

Although he acknowledges that more capacity to house detainees is needed, CBP’s McAlleenan has an idea on how to solve the problem. Actually, he has several of them.

“So, I think this is a multifaceted problem that requires a multifaceted solution,” he said. “You mentioned the legal framework, based on that Flores settlement and the court decision families are going to be released. So that’s inviting families into this dangerous journey. We need a sober-minded, nonpartisan look at our immigration laws to really confront and grapple with the fact that children and families are coming into this cycle, that’s first and foremost.”

“We also need to invest in Central America,” he added. He advocates working with Central American nations and Mexico to help fix the problems, such as violence, food shortages, and malnutrition, that make people want to leave those countries to come to the US.

He also favors physical barriers for certain parts of the border, particularly those that “have a dense metropolitan area on both sides of the border, where people can disappear quickly into a neighborhood in the U.S. side if we can’t slow them down.”

McAlleenan’s idea of a barrier includes much more than just a wall. “And what we’re talking about is not just a dumb barrier,” he says, “We’re talking about sensors, cameras, lighting, access roads for our agents, a system that helps us secure that area of the border.”

The $5 billion that President Trump has requested would pay for about 215 miles of McAlleenan’s requested improvements to the border. The entire border is almost 2,000 miles long.

Trump: ‘I Would Be Foolish’ To End Shutdown

President Trump met with Democrat leaders on Wednesday, but there was no apparent progress in reopening the government. The meeting which also included Republican congressional leaders seemed to leave both sides with positions unchanged.

Wednesday morning House Democrats announced a plan to reopen the government by passing six separate bills that would fund most government departments through the remainder of the fiscal year. A seventh bill would provide temporary funding for the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 8 but would not include funding for the wall. Democrats plan to pass their proposals on Thursday.

At the meeting on Wednesday afternoon, President Trump and Republican leaders said that the Democrat plan would be a nonstarter. Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the Senate would not vote on the Democratic measures and would not take up any bill that the president would not sign.

“The Senate will be glad to vote on a measure that the House passes that the president will sign. But we’re not going to vote on anything else,” McConnell told CNN after the meeting, adding that he hoped that a deal could be reached within “days” or “weeks.”

When asked by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer why he would not support a partial reopening of the government, President Trump replied, “I would be foolish if I did that.”

At issue is funding over President Trump’s proposed border wall. The president is asking for $5 billion for his pet project and Democrats have only been willing to agree to $1.3 billion for border security. Trump also rejected a compromise by Vice President Pence that would have provided about half of the president’s funding request.

The current shutdown has already lasted for 13 days. The longest shutdown on record occurred from December 1995 through January 1996 and lasted 22 days. A shutdown in 1978 that lasted 18 days and the 2013 shutdown that lasted 16 days are also so far longer than the current shutdown.

With the shutdown occurring over the holidays, the effect of about 25 percent of the government being closed has been muted. As the nation goes back to work, however, the nuisance of having government offices closed will increase. About 380,000 federal workers have been told to stay home and another 420,000 have been told to work without pay. At this point, there is no way of knowing when they will be paid again. Among the government functions halted by the shutdown are the issuance of USDA rural loans and E-Verify checks of the immigration status of new employees.

Neither party has the votes to force their will on the other. A funding bill would have to navigate the Democrat-controlled House as well as the Republican-controlled Senate. Legislation in the Senate also needs Democrat votes for cloture. President Trump also has the power to veto legislation that does not meet his requirements.

Any resolution to the shutdown will require both parties to compromise. So far, neither has shown any sign of willingness to do so. The only strategy of either party is to blame the other side and hope that they eventually give in.

What If They Shut Down The Government And No One Cared?

As the government shutdown stretches toward a week with no end in sight, most Americans seem unaffected and possibly even unaware that nonessential government services are shut down. Unlike previous shutdowns, there is little media coverage of closed parks and offices or furloughed federal workers. Even more odd, there seems to be little interest from either side in reaching an agreement to reopen the government.

The shutdown officially began at midnight on Friday, Dec. 21 and negotiations stalled almost immediately as members of Congress left on their Christmas break. Both Houses are reconvening today, but the two parties seem further apart on an agreement than they were last week, chiefly because President Trump is insisting on the apparently arbitrary number of $5 billion for wall funding.

Rather than working towards a deal, the two sides are pointing fingers at each other. Democrat leaders accuse President Trump of using “scare tactics” in attempt to build support for his pet wall project while the president tweeted, “The Democrats now own the shutdown” shortly after talks in Congress failed on Dec. 21 and said, “Nancy is calling the shots” on Dec. 26.

The president’s accusations that Democrats are to blame stand in stark contrast to his statements a few weeks ago. In a televised brouhaha with Pelosi and Schumer earlier this month, Trump boasted, “I am proud to shut down the government for border security because the people of this country don’t want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country. So, I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it. The last time you shut it down, it didn’t work. I will take the mantle of shutting down.”

In fact, the evidence points towards Trump being responsible for the shutdown. The Senate passed a compromise temporary spending bill that would have funded the government until Feb. 8, but the House responded with its own bill that included money for the wall. The House bill could not win cloture in the Senate and President Trump refused to sign any bill without wall funding, threatening to veto the Senate compromise. Republicans in both chambers have said that there will be no more votes until there is an overall agreement that the president will sign.

“I’ve made my position very clear: Any measure that funds the government must include border security,” Trump said last week.

Democrats have offered $1.3 billion for border security that does not include funding for the wall. On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly promised that Mexico would pay for the wall.

At this point, neither side seems to have any incentive to give in. If the shutdown extends into the next Congress, which convenes at noon on Jan. 3, the new Democrat majority in the House will give them a stronger bargaining position. On the other hand, Trump knows that if he ends the current shutdown without wall funding, he is extremely unlikely to receive the money next year from the Democrat-controlled House.

Through all the political theater, Americans have collectively yawned and turned back toward their holiday celebrations. The shutdown has not affected air travel during the busy holiday season and the Post Office, which is independent of the federal government and funded by revenue from its services, has stayed open to deliver packages and Christmas cards. The topsy-turvy stock market and President Trump’s post-Christmas trip to Iraq have also provided distractions.

The shutdown has primarily affected nonessential federal employees and contractors. Military personnel – with the notable exception of the Coast Guard – continue to get paid during the shutdown. Some federal workers such as air traffic controllers are expected to work without getting paid during the shutdown. National parks may be technically open but without most of the members of their staffs.

A sign at the entrance to the Antietam National Battlefield warned visitors, “Park visitors are advised to use extreme caution if choosing to enter a (National Park Service) property, as NPS personnel will not be available to provide guidance, assistance, maintenance, or emergency response. Any entry onto NPS property during this period of federal government shutdown is at the visitor’s sole risk.”

Even if people at home don’t care about the shutdown, the Stars and Stripes pointed out that it has far-reaching effects around the world. The US government employs people around the world. Like American federal employees, essential workers will probably get back pay when the shutdown ends, but other nonessential employees and contractors may not. US government services such as the US Geological Survey are not operating due to the shutdown. This meant that the respected agency could not provide data on the recent Indonesian tsunami. The shutdown also means that embassies are not providing many services to Americans and others abroad. One of the biggest effects of the shutdown is the loss of prestige to the US constitutional system.

Contrary to popular belief, government shutdowns don’t save taxpayer money. Shutdowns are more expensive than keeping the government open. Revenue from museums and parks is lost and federal employees spend thousands of hours preparing for shutdowns and then reopening the government. This work includes shutting down systems and securing facilities that will be unmanned. Most workers receive back pay when the government reopens even if they were furloughed and told to stay home during the shutdown. The added cost of shutting down the government typically adds up to tens of millions of dollars per day.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the government shutdown is how much of the federal government is not subject to congressional appropriations. The largest part of federal spending, which includes most military spending and entitlements, is essentially on autopilot.

President Trump said on Wednesday that the shutdown would last as long it took to secure funding for the wall, telling reporters in Iraq, “Whatever it takes, we’re going to have a wall, we’re going to have safety. We need safety for our country.”

But as I wrote earlier this month, there is no clear path to victory in the shutdown strategy. Getting wall funding is contingent on getting a bill past the Democrat filibuster in the Senate. So far, there are no signs that any Senate Democrats are about to break ranks and vote for cloture on the president’s bill. That means that there is no end in sight for the shutdown.

President Trump: All I Want For Christmas Is A Government Shutdown

Americans must have been naughty this year because it looks as if one of their early Christmas gifts may be a government shutdown, courtesy of President Trump, Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). After a contentious Oval Office meeting on Tuesday, there seems little chance of agreement on a stop-gap measure to fund the government through the holidays. Unless a funding bill is passed, the government will shut down on Dec. 21.

In the televised meeting, the president repeatedly emphasized the need for border security that specifically includes a wall and threatened to shut the government down in order to get it. Pelosi and Schumer repeatedly said that they were seeking a compromise that would keep the government open.

“I am proud to shut down the government for border security,” President Trump stated as the discussion became heated, “because the people of this country don’t want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country. So, I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it. The last time you shut it down, it didn’t work. I will take the mantle of shutting down.”

Leaving aside that the Democrats do make valid points (a phrase I seldom have to type) about the cost, practicality, and effectiveness of the wall, the president’s embrace of the shutdown strategy is a losing proposition. Although government shutdowns play well with the Republican base, they seldom achieve their policy objectives and usually end in an abject surrender often by Republicans who normally are shutting the government down because they lack votes.

Government shutdowns call to mind the Underpants Gnomes of “SouthPark.” The Gnomes famously described their business plan as follows:

Phase 1: Collect underpants

Phase 2: ?

Phase 3: Profit

In the case of government shutdowns, the plan seems similar:

Phase 1: Shut down the government

Phase 2: ?

Phase 3: Victory

Like the Underpants Gnomes, shutdown advocates focus on Phase 1 and Phase 3 while the vital details of the all-important Phase 2 remain sketchy. In fact, no one has ever been able to give me a reasonable explanation of Phase 2.

When it comes to passing legislation, the Constitution is specific about the process. Those of us who came of age in the ‘80s learned about it between Saturday morning cartoons with a Schoolhouse Rock short called, “I’m Just a Bill.” The abridged version is that any bill, including Trump’s border wall funding proposal, has to be passed by both houses of Congress.

The rub for the current Congress is a detail not mentioned by Schoolhouse Rock, the filibuster and cloture votes. Even though Republicans control both houses of Congress until the new Congress convenes in January, their slim majority in the Senate means that they don’t have enough votes for cloture.

Senate rules require a cloture vote to end debate on any bill. This modern, “gentlemen’s” filibuster requires 60 votes to advance a bill to a floor vote in the Senate. In practical terms, that means that Republicans need a minimum of nine Democrats to vote for cloture and end a filibuster.

What does this have to do with government shutdowns? Everything. The only way to pass a bill is to have the required number of votes. If Republicans can’t get Democrats to cross the aisle then the wall funding bill won’t pass, shutdown or no shutdown.

The problem for President Trump is that shutting down the government does nothing to entice Democrats to vote for the wall. If President Trump leads Republicans into a shutdown over wall funding, my prediction is that Republicans will eventually surrender and agree to reopen the open the government after a few days or weeks of wrangling.

This is what happened in 2013 when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) led Republicans to shut down the government over Obamacare. The shutdown lasted 16 days during which Republican approval ratings plummeted to their lowest level in history (up to that point anyway). Republicans surrendered and agreed to a deal to reopen the government and increase the debt limit. The Affordable Care Act survives to this day. The shutdown cost taxpayers $24 billion.

The shoe was on the other foot earlier this year when Democrats shut down the government in hopes of forcing an immigration deal that would legalize Dreamers. In this case, Democrats were the ones lacking the votes and they eventually had to give in.

The bottom line is that whichever party enters a shutdown without the votes they need is going to exit the shutdown without the votes that they need. There are only two ways to change votes in Congress: compromises and elections. Shutdowns just force both sides to dig in deeper. Both parties lose in public opinion. The other big loser is taxpayers who foot the bill for all the political drama. Contrary to popular belief, shutdowns cost more than keeping the government open.

President Trump wants border security in the form of a wall, but he won’t get it from a shutdown. His best bet would be to embrace his status as an artist of deal-making and present Democrats with an offer too good to refuse. That’s what he promised in the campaign and what voters sent him to Washington to do. Pressing ahead to a government shutdown is setting himself and his party up for failure.

Border Security-Liberals Try Fear Mongering And Fail

Border security is a commonsense necessity. It is as much a national necessity now as it was centuries ago when the Great Wall of China was constructed. The base reasons are simple: domestic security, trade enforcement, and population control. Obviously, this is a bit of an over-simplification, but these reasons lie at the heart of every nation’s border enforcement policy.

It is this commonsense aspect of border enforcement that makes the liberal open borders rationaliszation so easily resisted in heartland USA. Debating commonsense is quixotic at best, forcing liberals to trot out every conceivable  open borders defense imaginable.

The latest trial balloon? Enter stage left courtesy The Daily Beast. The article, “Why America Can’t Spot Dirty Bombs” enters into the conversation under the guise of a dry fact-base examination of a terrifying vulnerability within the US:

“The U.S. is largely underprepared to detect or respond to the threat of a radiological terrorist attack on American soil.”

See what they did? They grabbed our attention, and set the stage for us to be concerned about our domestic safety. They even make a show of normal journalism:

“The Red Team report, dated July 2016 and reviewed by The Daily Beast, summarizes a year’s worth of covert and overt testing of nuclear and radiological detection and response capabilities. These tests were performed by a broad range state, local, federal, and tribal agencies and across a range of venues: at border points of entry, in aviation and maritime environments, during large public events like the Super Bowl or Inauguration, and at regular checkpoints around the country.”

Having established their journalistic bona fides, and having sown the ground with fear, they can now hammer it home:

“Rising homegrown radicalization of U.S. citizens and renewed calls by terror groups to carry out dirty bomb and weapons of mass destruction attacks on targets throughout the United States.”

Now, they deliver their version of the coup d’état:

“Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly acknowledges this threat and said in an interview with Fox News conducted right after his confirmation that nuclear and radiological detection capabilities would be included in the construction of Trump’s proposed border wall. But according to the July 2016 Red Team report, local and federal agencies had ongoing and serious problems fulfilling even the most basic aspects of that mission at the border and elsewhere.”

First they normalize the article by quoting Fox News, perhaps a first for the liberal rag. Then, they raise questions about efficacy of wall security by equating its supposed weakness with the former president’s incompetence and utter diffidence. This is misleading because the author isn’t really concerned with The Wall’s radiological defense capabilities in the least. However, having laid the requisite groundwork, their true agenda finally emerges:

“The combined increases in homegrown radicalization of U.S. citizens and calls by ISIS to carry out nuclear and chemical attacks on American soil are among the most serious threats facing the country…the Trump administration’s hardline and vocal anti-immigration stance will make this pressure cooker of a situation even more volatile, as aspiring foreign fighters refocus their efforts on domestic attacks out of concern that if they leave the country, they won’t be allowed to return.”

If you need to read that more than once for it to sink in, go ahead. The Daily Beast is actually positing the theory that enhanced border enforcement is inherently dangerous because  “foreign fighters” living here will be rushing out to detonate their dirty bombs. The term “foreign fighter”? I can’t explain that one, I have to confess its a new one for me. Sounds kinda romantic doesn’t it? Until you realize the Boston Marathon bombers fall into that category. Then’s its just creepy and disgusting.

The author wants you to ignore the fact the the article implicitly implicitly admits enhanced border enforcement coupled with interior enforcement works. Rather, they use a tactic straight out of the Alinsky handbook; when all else fails, try fear mongering.

Those outside the liberal fringe will quite naturally reject the premise of this trial balloon, it is nonsensical at its core. But rest assured, when this balloon pops, they will have another one ready to go. The foreign fighter never quits.

 

Why Not Close the Border?

Jonathan Last shares my opinion on why we are not closing the border.

Closing off flights seems like a no-brainer, yet the administration rejects it out of hand. Why? I suspect it’s because they sense how Ebola has the potential to reshuffle the political landscape. Starting with immigration.

If you agree to seal the borders to mitigate the risks from Ebola, then you’re implicitly rejecting the entire ideological framework of the “open borders” mindset and admitting that there are some cases in which the government has a duty to protect citizens from outsiders. I suspect that some folks see that as the thin end of the wedge.