WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump could have taken yes for an answer on border security. Instead, he decided to force a costly government shutdown over his proposed wall that angered just about everybody while producing no extra money for his priority.
The government funding bill that Congress is expected to send to the president’s desk on Thursday provides just $1.375 billion for 55 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border ― approximately the same amount of money for barriers that Congress offered the president late last year. A Senate committee approved even more for border security ― $1.6 billion ― in a bipartisan agreement last summer.
But Trump bet he could extract a lot more, as much as $5.7 billion, from the newly elected Democratic majority in the House by partially closing down the government and daring them not to blink and agree to fund a wall he initially said Mexico would pay for. Heeding calls from conservative media personalities like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter ― his pseudo kitchen Cabinet ― Trump refused to accept a deal that even Republicans had agreed to, thereby forcing 800,000 federal workers to go without pay in a shutdown that cost the economy $11 billion.
“This White House, supposedly the best dealmakers on earth, really dropped the ball. I mean, we had a chance here to solve this problem two months ago without a shutdown,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told HuffPost on Wednesday.
Trump is now planning to declare a national emergency to obtain the remaining funds to build the wall, the White House said. But that legally dubious option isn’t likely to net him more miles of border barrier either.
Last year, the president actually might have obtained as much as $25 billion to build his wall. The Senate considered legislation in February 2018 that would have funded the wall’s construction in exchange for permanent protections for those enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, providing a path to citizenship for some 1.8 million undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. Dubbed the “Common Sense” compromise, the bill seemed like the most viable way forward with some rare areas of bipartisan agreement.
But Senate Republicans, even those who were sympathetic to the plight of the Dreamers, came out in opposition to the bill after the White House issued a veto threat and began whipping members to vote against it. The Senate bill failed to reach a filibuster-proof majority on a 54-45 vote, despite near-unanimous Democratic support.
Trump attempted to revive a form of that deal in January, offering temporary protections for DACA recipients in exchange for $5.7 billion in wall funding. Democrats refused, however, maintaining that three years of deportation relief for Dreamers, who remain in legal limbo since Trump rescinded their protections, wasn’t nearly enough.
Trump’s strategy during the shutdown angered members of his own party as well. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) got into a heated confrontation with a fellow GOP senator during a weekly lunch last month as frustration reached a boiling point and poll after poll showed the American public blaming Trump and congressional Republicans over Democrats.
“I don’t think the shutdown was a good idea. I think it was just all about point scoring. But a lot of people got hurt unnecessarily,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told HuffPost this week, when asked if he felt that the shutdown had been worth the trouble. He lamented that Democrats seemed to be focused on “trying to embarrass” Trump by opposing barriers on the border.
Democrats, meanwhile, said they hoped the bitter monthslong fight over border security, with no additional funding to show for it, had taught Trump not to use the tactic again.
“I think what Republicans are thinking is, ‘What were we thinking?’” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said on Wednesday. “But more to the point, what was Trump thinking?”