In a tweet on Sunday, President Trump said that he had not forgotten his promises to the American people when it came to illegal immigration, and indicated that he would not hesitate to shut down the government if it meant securing the money needed to build his signature border wall.
“I would be willing to shut down government if Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall!” Trump wrote. “Must get rid of Lottery, Catch & Release etc. and finally go to system of Immigration based on MERIT! We need great people coming into our Country!”
The House has already passed legislation authorizing the release of $5 billion for construction, but it’s chances in the Senate are slim. With a 60-vote majority needed to pass the bill, the administration would not only need to pull ten Democrats over to their side but convince several Republicans who have never been on board with the president’s immigration agenda.
Funds from the March spending bill will only take the government through September, at which point Congress will have to come together on a new stop-gap deal. Trump was publicly upset about the last bill, which did not include money for his immigration agenda but had room for plenty of waste on other programs.
“I said to Congress, I will never sign another bill like this again,” Trump said at the time.
Several Republican lawmakers have expressed their aversion to a shutdown. Asked about the possibility on CBS, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said, “Let’s hope not.”
On ABC, Rep, Steve Stivers said, “I don’t think we’re going to shut down the government. You know, I think we’re going to make sure we keep the government open, but we’re going to get better policies on immigration.”
The problem arises, of course, in the meaning of the word “better.” To Trump, it means all the things he outlined in his tweet. To many pro-immigration Republicans, it means beefing up border security in a meaningless way. And to Democrats, it means everything from abolishing ICE to providing amnesty to Dreamers (and everyone who could possibly claim to be a Dreamer in the future). That’s why it’s going to be so difficult for Congress to put an acceptable deal on the president’s desk.
Both Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have signaled that they would rather push a fight over the border wall until after the midterm elections, but it’s possible that Trump has run out of patience with this constant “kick the can down the road” approach. Certainly, if Republicans lose the House, it’s not going to make getting the money any easier. And even if they win, where will the additional leverage come from that Republicans didn’t already have?
No, this may be one of those things that President Trump will have to force on his own, political consequences be damned. If we leave this important issue to Capitol Hill Republicans to solve on their own, it’ll never get done.