The government shutdown over President Donald Trump’s border wall wages on with Democrats poised to take control of the House of Representatives on Jan. 3, so how will it all end?
Ultimately, either Trump gives up on his $5 billion demand for the border wall, Democrats finally give up the necessary funding or both sides come to some sort of a compromise.
Soon-to-be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the new Democratic majority will pass a bill to reopen the government soon after taking power, but Senate Republicans won’t vote on any spending bill that isn’t approved by Trump.
As the shutdown drags on and on, moderate Republicans in the Senate could force Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to put the House bill on the floor for amendments.
Moderate Republicans in the House also could have a role, though in the minority. If they balk at Trump’s all-or-nothing demand for $5 billion for the border wall, they could back a bill reopen the government and raise the prospect of overriding a Trump veto.
Bloomberg broke down the six most likely scenarios:
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer offered options to Trump during a heated Oval Office meeting on Dec. 11, including a six-bill spending package with a stopgap for Homeland Security and a full-year stopgap spending bill for all the closed federal departments. A House Democratic aide said the most likely is the six-bill package based on bipartisan draft Senate spending bills. It would give new spending totals through September for the departments of Agriculture, Interior, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Treasury, State, Commerce and Justice, as well as related agencies. Under the second option, funding would stay at current levels through September with some negotiated exceptions, such as adding aid for hurricane and wildfire relief.
Trump is dug in and isn’t likely to accept either option. Both would provide $1.3 billion for border security, though it couldn’t be used for new fencing.
Stopgap Spending Into February
A stopgap bill opening the government through Feb. 8 passed the Senate on a voice vote earlier this month before being scuttled in the House by outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan and the threat of a veto from Trump. As the pain of the federal shutdown increases and workers miss their Jan. 11 paychecks, this option could become more attractive. Lawmakers could also keep current spending levels into March or later.
Senate Compromise Revived
Lawmakers could revive a deal reached in August by Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby and top committee Democrat Patrick Leahy to provide $1.6 billion for border barriers, including about 65 miles (105 km) of pedestrian fencing near the Rio Grande River. “I think $1.6 billion has a nice ring to it,” said outgoing Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn just prior to the shutdown.
“A lot of people in retrospect will say we should have accepted that,” Leahy told reporters on Dec. 19. The money could have been used only to build existing designs such as steel bollard fencing, and the barriers couldn’t be built in the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in Texas along the banks of the Rio Grande. This plan would let Trump claim the shutdown gained $300 million more in funding for border security than Democrats’ $1.3 billion offer.
Pence Offer Tweaked
Vice President Mike Pence told Schumer on Dec. 22 that Trump could accept $2.1 billion for border barriers, plus a $400 million flexible fund for the president’s “immigration priorities.” Democrats dismissed the $400 million as a “slush fund” that could be used to mistreat migrants, and they called the offer hollow because Trump hadn’t publicly endorsed it.
Still, this offer could become the seed for a deal if Trump endorsed it. Language could be added to limit the money to barriers that Trump could call a wall and Democrats could call a fence. Limits on the $400 million could direct the money to mutually agreeable uses. Trump met with Pence, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney and senior adviser Jared Kushner Friday night at Pence’s residence for about two hours.
McConnell, prior to the shutdown, offered Democrats a deal allocating $1.6 billion for border barriers plus $1 billion for a flexible fund. A compromise could be reached by shrinking or eliminating the flexible fund and providing between $1.6 billion and $2.1 billion for barriers.
The name of the game in shutdown fights is avoiding blame. Trump said in the widely televised Oval Office meeting on Dec. 11 that he would accept blame for any shutdown, but since it began, he’s insisted that Democrats are at fault. On Sunday, he tweeted about a “Schumer Shutdown.” Democrats are in no mood to give in, making a capitulation to Trump the least likely scenario.
Slightly less implausible: Shelby floated a compromise in which Trump’s $5 billion would be split into $2.5 billion for each of two years. Trump was said to privately back the idea, but Democrats rejected it because the money could be used for a concrete wall. Because Pence’s Dec. 22 offer was lower than the $2.5 billion level, returning to this solution seems unlikely.
On CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Shelby urged both sides to stop the blame game and said Democrats should articulate what kind of border security they can support. Montana Democrat Jon Tester, on the same program, said he prefers technology and more manpower at the border to a wall.