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.

Did Trump’s Speech Make A Strong Case For The Border Wall?

 

President Trump took the airwaves to make the case for his border wall in a speech from the Oval Office last night. In the speech, which lasted nine minutes and was followed by a rebuttal from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Trump framed the problem at the border as a “humanitarian crisis” and called it “immoral” to take no action.

Trump’s sympathetic words last night for illegal immigrants stand in stark contrast to his claims during the campaign that Mexico was “not sending their best” and that illegal immigrants were “people that have lots of problems,” bringing crime and drugs to the US, as well as his administration’s zero tolerance policy for illegal border crossers that resulted in breaking up illegal alien families. In contrast, last night Trump said that illegal immigrant children were “human pawns by vicious coyotes and ruthless gangs” and cited a statistic that “one in three women are sexually assaulted on the dangerous trek up through Mexico.”

Saying that our immigration system was “broken,” Trump called on Congress to fix the problem. While both parties and most Americans agree that the immigration system needs an overhaul and that border security is important, the question is how to fix it.

Trump began by detailing a number of non-wall proposals that include many things that Democrats seem to agree with. These include “cutting-edge technology for detecting drugs, weapons, illegal contraband and many other things,” more Border Patrol agents, more bed space for detained illegals, and “humanitarian assistance and medical support.” The president also asked Congress to “close border security loopholes so that illegal immigrant children can be safely and humanely returned back home.”

What the president did not do was make a strong case that the wall was necessary for border security. The president’s question of why “wealthy politicians build walls, fences and gates around their homes” was more suitable to a meme than a policy speech. Trump claimed that Border Patrol agents said they needed a wall, but an internal study by US Customs and Border Protection found that agents gave priority to requests for more and better technology, training, and personnel.

A number of critics of the wall, including myself, have not called it immoral, but rather have said that it would be expensive and ineffective. The president pointedly ignored the factual problems with the wall plan that have been cited by such organizations as the Cato Institute and the Rand Corporation.

Instead of refuting these legitimate concerns and criticisms, the president used a straw man argument to attack anyone who doesn’t support the wall by framing the debate as a “choice between right and wrong, justice and injustice.” The president’s strong, emotional appeal will play well with the base, but it is unlikely to win over people who oppose the wall. Instead, it will harden the divisions and make a wall even more unlikely.

Rather than focusing on the wall that would physically divide the US and Mexico and that metaphorically divides US public opinion, a better strategy would be to get as much money for border security as possible and reopen the government. Put the money toward things that both sides want such as more agents, newer technology to assist them, and upgrades to the existing 600 miles of border fencing.

The fact is that many things that both parties want are in the compromise bills that are being proposed in the House. It is the insistence on $5 billion for the wall, a figure that would not come close to completing the project, that is keeping the government shut down and preventing a bipartisan compromise that would fund popular border security projects. President Trump should accept that a wall isn’t going to happen and get what border security money that he can. If he can upgrade and repair existing physical barriers on the border, he can even claim a victory in building the wall.

Chris Wallace Sets Record Straight On Terrorists Illegally Crossing From Mexico

A major talking point of the Trump Administration has been that the border wall is vital to national security. As part of their argument, President Trump has made the claim that terrorists have been apprehended crossing the southern border with Mexico. This and similar claims became the focal point of a heated discussion between White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Chris Wallace of Fox News yesterday.

On Fox News Sunday, Wallace cited Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s statement that CBP had stopped more than 3,000 special interest aliens at the southern border and explained that “special interest aliens” are “people who come from countries that have ever produced a terrorist.” Wallace added, “They aren’t terrorists themselves” and noted that the State Department said that there was “no credible evidence of any terrorist coming across the border from Mexico.”

Sanders responded, “We know that there are nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists [that] come into our country illegally and we know that our most vulnerable point of entry is at our southern border.”

Wallace interrupted, “I know that statistic. I didn’t know if you were going to use it, but I studied up on this. You know where those 4,000 people come from, where they are captured? Airports!”

“Not always,” Sanders retorted.

“The State Department says there hasn’t been any terrorist that they’ve found coming across the southern border,” Wallace fired back.

“It’s by air, it’s by land, it’s by sea, it’s all of the above,” Sanders answered.

“But they’re not coming across the southern border, Sarah,” Wallace said, ‘They’re coming and they’re being stopped at airports.”

I had also heard the Homeland Security statistics and Trump’s claims about terrorists coming from Mexico. They didn’t ring true. Think about how the Trump Administration reacts when an illegal alien commits a violent. Both perpetrator and victim are featured prominently in talking points and the president’s tweets. Over the past few years, we have seen this pattern with Kate Steinle, Mollie Tibbets, and the recent murder of police Corporal Ronil Singh in California.

But when it comes to terrorists crossing the Mexican border, the Trump Administration has been astonishingly silent. If terrorists were being captured as they crossed the border from Mexico, it seems likely that the Trump Administration would be marching them before the media to make the case for the border wall. They haven’t.

Instead, we have a bait-and-switch. Trump surrogates like Sanders make two separate claims and link them together. On one hand, Sanders makes the verifiable claim that “there are nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists [that] come into our country illegally.” On the other, she offers an opinion that “our most vulnerable point of entry is at our southern border.” Sanders dishonestly leads the viewer to make the erroneous connection that the 4,000 terrorists were apprehended at the Mexican border, when, in fact, they were apprehended at airports.

Border security is a legitimate concern, both at the Mexican border and at airports, but the revelation that the Trump Administration has been purposely misleading the country about how terrorists enter the country undercuts the already shaky case for a border wall.

In fact, current security at the Mexican border seems to be working pretty well. The migrant caravan, which was pitched as an “invasion” in October, is still sitting in Tijuana where its members are waiting to legally apply for asylum. Illegal border crossings have already been declining for years, hitting a 46-year low in 2017. For more than a decade now, most illegal aliens have entered the country legally and overstayed visas rather than sneaking across the Mexican border. By 2014, two-thirds of new illegals were visa overstays.

While it certainly isn’t impossible that terrorists could sneak across the Mexican border, possibly through one of the innumerable tunnels that run underneath current physical barriers, there is no evidence that they are doing so. If conservatives want to make dispassionate policy decisions and use taxpayer money to the greatest advantage for the country, facts support the idea that border security money should be focused toward tracking aliens who enter the country legally on visas and then drop out of sight.

The Trump Administration loses more of its credibility, which is already in short supply, when they make false claims such as advancing the idea that terrorists are streaming across the Mexican border. Kudos to Chris Wallace and Fox News for setting the record straight.

 

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.

Why The Wall Is Not The Solution To Illegal Immigration

Donald Trump’s wall has been a centerpiece of Republican immigration policy since 2015. The bruising fight over wall funding led the current government shutdown that, at this point, is certain to last into the new year. Aside from funding, however, there is another big problem with the wall: It won’t do what it is intended to do.

The idea of the wall is established on the premise that a physical barrier running the entire length of the US-Mexico border is the only way to prevent illegal immigration. The total length of the US-Mexico border is 1,989 miles (3,201 km) and the sheer length of the border would make the construction of a wall along the southern border a massive undertaking.

Still, a wall of that length is not impossible to build. China’s Great Wall is 5,500 miles (8,850 km) long. Contrary to popular belief, however, the Great Wall is not entirely composed of the wide stone walls that we know from pictures. While about 3,900 miles are constructed wall sections, there are also 225 miles of trenches, and 1,400 miles of natural barriers such as hills and rivers.

Natural barriers are also present along the southern US border. While many Americans picture the Mexican border as a flat, desert wasteland, in reality, there are many different types of terrain. As pictured in an interactive map from USA Today, the border geography ranges from urban areas in places like San Diego and Laredo to the sheer rock cliffs of Texas’ Big Bend to coastal marshes and salt flats along the Gulf of Mexico near Brownsville, Texas.

One of the largest obstacles to the construction of a wall is that 1,260 miles of the border are defined by the Rio Grande. The entire border between Texas and Mexico is defined by this river, which in many places is shallow enough to walk across. At its deepest point, the Rio Grande is only 60 feet deep and at times the river is a mere trickle if there is a surface flow at all.

Walling up the Rio Grande may be possible from an engineering standpoint, but the river raises a different sort of problem in Texas. In the arid regions of south and west Texas, ranchers depend on the Rio Grande to water both crops and cattle. If the wall is erected on the northern side of the river, it would be equivalent to ceding the region’s primary water supply to Mexico. The Mexicans would most likely not cooperate with placing the wall on the southern side and a wall built in the center of the river would not only be structurally unsound but could alter the course of the river, a violation of treaties with Mexico.

At present, many plans for the border wall in Texas would be set back from the Rio Grande. The problem here is that it would not keep people from crossing the border illegally. It would only impede them in moving from the border region to the interior of the country. Such a wall would be more effective against smugglers than refugees seeking amnesty, who would easily cross onto US soil. It would also be a major inconvenience for American citizens who live or own property south of the wall.

Because much of the border land in Texas is privately owned, the federal government has had to use eminent domain laws to condemn and seize land where it plans to build the wall in Texas. After passage of the after the Secure Fence Act of 2006, Noel Benavides of Roma, Texas lost a swath of land that had been in his family since 1767 to a wall that has yet to be built across his property.

Wall-building would also be difficult in the desolate areas of west Texas. The southwestern United States contains rocky mountains and sheer cliffs that are reminiscent of Wile E. Coyote cartoons. This terrain is ill-suited to construction but is passable to determined travelers.

Even after the wall is built, the need for maintenance would be constant. Earthquakes, rock slides, floods, erosion, corrosion, and, of course, vandalism could cause damage to sections of the wall. The structure would have to be constantly monitored and repaired.

Would the wall be worth the time, trouble, and treasure that it would take to build and maintain it?

There are already about 650 miles of border fence along the borders of California, Arizona, and New Mexico. The current fencing consists of a mix of vehicle barriers and pedestrian fencing that vary in height, construction, quality, and condition.

While the wall is a centuries-old technology, the current fencing has shown that the concept can be defeated by other old technologies such as ladders, ramps, and tunnels. A 2010 viral video showed two young women scaling a border fence unaided by ladders or climbing gear in 18 seconds.  Last November, we witnessed members of the migrant caravan climbing the fence near Tijuana. In 2012, a smuggler’s SUV got stuck crossing the border fence with the aid of ramps. It is uncertain how many similar attempts were not detected. More recently a plethora of smuggling tunnels underneath the border has been found in areas where there are physical barriers above the surface.

The bottom line is that a border wall is no panacea. While the wall might make it more difficult or costly to cross the border, smugglers and illegal immigrants will find a way unless they are physically stopped by Border Patrol agents.

Even though a wall backed up by sensors and Border Patrol agents would be at least partially effective, the immense investment in time and money would leave open another route for illegal immigrants. The Center for Migration Studies reports that visitors who enter the US legally and then overstay visas have exceeded those crossing the border illegally every year since 2007. By 2014, two-thirds of new illegals were visa overstays.

The bottom line is that assuming that a wall is feasible to build at all in areas that have not already been fenced, it will be much more difficult and expensive and much less effective than Republicans generally assume. If the fight to build it is ever won, the wall will still require a significant Border Patrol presence as well as constant maintenance. Even then, the wall would do nothing to prevent visa overstays, a larger source of illegal immigrants than the southern border.

H.L. Mencken famously said, “There is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.” As conservatives, we should look beyond simplistic and emotional arguments to determine the facts before spending untold billions of dollars. Those facts tell us that a wall is not the best solution to the problem of illegal immigration. Fencing is appropriate for some areas but doesn’t make sense for the entirety of the border. Wall funding is almost certainly the wrong hill to die on, especially since most polls show that a majority of Americans oppose the wall.

The inability to control the border isn’t a problem unique to the southern United States. Walls didn’t work well for the Chinese either. The Great Wall didn’t prevent its defenders from being overrun on multiple occasions. No less than four times the Xiongnu, the Jurchens, the Mongols, and the Manchus pierced the defensive barrier.

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.

Retreat On Wall Funding And Bump Stock Ban May Cause Cracks In Trump’s Base

Donald Trump boasted during the 2016 campaign that “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn’t lose any voters.” Until now that has been true. No matter what Trump has done or what revelations have come out his supporters have stuck with him. This week may have been the breaking point for some Trump supporters, however.

Core Trump supporters have a few issues that rise above all others. For many, guns and immigration top the list and this week saw President Trump take positions on both issues that are unpopular with many members of his base.

First, Trump, who many supporters lauded as a fighter, surrendered to Democrats on a temporary funding bill for the government. As recently as last week, Trump had vowed not to sign a new spending bill that did not include $5 billion in funding for his border wall. On Tuesday, however, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders retreated from that position, telling reporters, “At the end of the day, we don’t want to shut down the government. We want to shut down the border.”

Trump supporters almost universally support the border wall, even to the point of launching a GoFundMe campaign that has so far raised $1 million for the project. Many were also strongly in favor of a government shutdown over funding for the wall. The White House acquiesence to a temporary funding measure will be viewed as a defeat by many members of the base.

Even worse for Trump is the long-awaited bump stock ban. The Second Amendment is considered untouchable by many Trump supporters and conservatives yet President Trump has ordered the Department of Justice to outlaw the rapid-fire devices and require Americans who own them to either turn them in or destroy them within 90 days. There is no provision for compensating bump stock owners for their devices which could cost hundreds of dollars. Worse, the ATF under President Obama told Congress that the government did not have the authority under current law to ban the devices.

The Trump Administration’s ban has brought criticism from many Second Amendment supporters. Jerry Henry, executive director of Georgia Carry, told the Atlanta Journal, “When you start banning accessories to firearms, then you really get on a slippery slope. It doesn’t change the function of the firearm, and therefore it shouldn’t be banned.”

“It is nibbling away at our second amendment rights,” Janelle Westrom, owner of Davenport Guns, told Iowa’s TV-6. “I don’t like the decision but, myself personally, it doesn’t affect me,” she added.

“I don’t care about bump stocks,” tweeted Sean Davis, Trump supporter and a founder of The Federalist, “but I care a great deal about lawless government power grabs, based on utter lies, that will instantly turn innocent people who did nothing wrong into felons and be used to justify nationwide confiscation regimes.”

Davis also noted in a separate tweet, “Under the new rule, an individual who illegally brings a loaded rifle into an elementary school will get a shorter maximum prison sentence (5 years) than a woman who has a bump stock in her garage but doesn’t own any actual guns (10 years).”

On the other hand, some people do support the bump stock ban. “I have to agree with the ban,” Geoff Wilson of Hendersonville, N.C. told WLOS TV.. “Turn them in, get rid of them. And like I said, I’m a full supporter of the Second Amendment.”

Another supporter of the ban is Mary Margaret Oliver, a Democrat state representative who introduced a similar bill in the Georgia General Assembly earlier this year. Rep. Oliver’s bill went nowhere but she told the AJC, “I’m delighted that I can say that President Trump did something that makes me happy.”

While some Trump supporters will rally around the president and deny that the bump stock ban is an infringement of the Second Amendment and an unconstitutional overreach of executive authority, for others Trump’s moves will be a breach of trust. Where Trump’s past statements in support of gun control can be overlooked by many, the bump stock ban initiated by the president without getting anything in exchange cannot be explained away as a bargaining ploy or mere rhetoric.

Trump’s support won’t evaporate overnight but this week may mark a turning point with his base. Issuing an ultimatum on wall funding to Democrats and then backing down smacks of weakness while the bump stock ban calls into question Trump’s core principles. Supporters who have not doubted the president up to this point may now start to do so. Trump’s base won’t vote Democrat but they may stay home. This may be the president’s Fifth Avenue moment.