The federal government entered a partial shutdown at 12:01 a.m. EST on Saturday because President Donald Trump would not budge on his attempt to get the American people to pay for the border wall he spent his entire 2016 campaign promising Mexico would pay to build.
Both chambers of the Republican-controlled Congress adjourned on Friday without agreeing to a bill to fund the government, and no plan to reach a compromise that satisfies Trump’s demand for wall funding. The House passed a short-term budget bill with the $5.7 billion the White House wanted, and the Senate adjourned without achieving the 60-vote majority it needed to overcome a filibuster to pass that bill. Earlier in the week, the Senate unanimously passed a spending bill without wall funding.
But this putative conflict — in which most congressional Republicans align with Trump’s push for a wall and all Democrats refuse to fund the project — is unnecessary posturing that conceals the root cause of the shutdown that the president embraced last week: Trump failed to fulfill his signature campaign promise of building a great wall and getting Mexico to pay for it.
He repeated this promise over and over. Trump told a crowd in South Carolina, “You know all of these guys say ‘oh they’ll never pay’ — of course they’ll pay. If you have the right guy negotiating it, that they’ll pay.” The president also said Mexico would be “thrilled to be paying for the wall.”
The claims have only become more absurd. Earlier this month, Trump contended that building the wall would save America money (it wouldn’t). Last week, the president asserted Mexico was actually already paying for the wall because of the money America saves from the USMCA, which is the name for the new version of NAFTA that Trump hopes to implement. This ignores the fact that the agreement is not in force yet, won’t put dollars in the U.S. Treasury to fund the wall, and even it if was true, the need to stage a budget fight over a wall evaporates.
The agencies without budgets as of early Saturday morning are: Agriculture, Commerce, EPA, FDA, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, IRS, Justice, State, Treasury, and Transportation.
Thousands of TSA workers, border patrol agents, and ICE agents deemed “essential” will have to show up to work without the assurance of getting paid, doing the very work the president has said he cares so much about.
“It’s very dangerous out there,” Trump said in a Friday night video arguing for wall funding he tweeted out as the deadline approached. “with a wall, or a slat fence, or whatever you want to call it, but we need a great barrier.”
OUR GREAT COUNTRY MUST HAVE BORDER SECURITY! pic.twitter.com/ZGcYygMf3a
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 22, 2018
“Call it a Democrat shutdown, call it whatever you want, but we need their help to get this approved,” he said. Again, literally last week Trump told his congressional opponents Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) “I am proud to shut down the government for border security. I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it.”
This is now the third government shutdown of 2018 — a year in which Republicans hold majorities in Congress as well as the White House. This year’s first shutdown occurred thanks to conservatives’ refusal to resolve the status of Dreamers — young people brought to America with undocumented status who received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status under President Obama — and the second happened thanks to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).
On the same day that Trump’s administration dug in and forced a shutdown over wall funding, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney — who will take over for John Kelly as White House Chief of Staff in 2019 — faced fallout from comments he made in 2016 that disparaged his now-boss’ campaign argument for a wall, calling it “absurd and almost childish.”
“The fence doesn’t solve the problem,” Mulvaney told South Carolina radio station WRHI when asked about Trump’s plan to build a wall two years ago. “Is it necessary to have one, sure? Would it help? Sure. But to just say build the darn fence and have that be the end of an immigration discussion is absurd and almost childish for someone running for president to take that simplistic of [a] view.”
Mulvaney will have to use that simplistic view as a basis to help his boss reach some compromise to fund the government with or without wall funding.