The President and the Democratic Party leaders in Congress have dug in their heels. Neither side wishes to give an inch in the fight over funding for a border wall. How is the impasse to be resolved? Is some sort of compromise possible?
The Democrats obviously hope that pressures created by the extended partial government shutdown will cause Republican legislators to abandon the President and pass legislation that will restore funding to the Agriculture Department, IRS, etc. If this happens, and if Congress is able to override a probable veto, the President will lose his leverage and be forced to accept whatever crumbs the Democrats are willing to offer him. The effect would be a neutered President Trump. For the remainder of his term in office his power would be largely confined to command of the armed forces, direction of foreign affairs through the State Department, and nomination of federal judges. The Republican Senate and the Democratic House of Representatives would struggle over a legislative agenda acceptable to each side and to the President (he would still have the power of the veto).
Trump insists on money to build his promised wall. He wants 5.7 billion dollars for the fiscal year 2019 to start the project. The Democrats will agree to about a quarter of that amount. The argument is not really about the cost of the project. After all, 5.7 billion is a minuscule amount when compared to the total Federal project of more than 4 trillion. The battle over the wall is over three things. First: many Democrats are opposed to the very idea of a wall. Although they may agree in principle to the need for stricter immigration controls, they are philosophical stirred by the vision of an open, welcoming America. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free . . . “ Second: many Democrats have a visceral hatred of President Trump. They are determined to fight the President on almost every issue, and they are fearful of strengthening his hand by giving him a victory on the border wall. Third: those people flowing over the border will soon be reliable Democratic voters.
Which side has the higher ground in this fight? Is the border wall really needed? As usual, you can find experts to support either side in this ongoing argument. Most persons with actual experience on the border say that some sort of wall would be of immense benefit in curbing the inflow of unwanted intruders from the south. Many people are currently being lured into the attempt to cross our border because of the patchy barriers and controls now in place. Our border control agents and systems are being overwhelmed. Democrats might argue that a border wall would be ineffective, but certainly it would be an improvement over what we have now. Remember the radical reduction in the number of terrorist bombings after the Israelis built their wall? What solutions are the Democrats offering to our border problem?
Many critics have noted that even an effective border wall will not stop the inflow of illegals. How many foreign visitors have simply overstayed their visas and merged into the general population? We might point out that, unlike the faceless intruders from across our borders, we at least know who these people are, and steps can be taken to tighten our visa enforcement program. Others have suggested that the arrival of illegals by air and sea might become just as big a problem as land border crossings. This is true, but building a border wall will not cause us to abandon efforts to deal with other illegal methods of entry, and it could free up resources needed for our success in these areas. As many have said, we need a comprehensive approach to the immigration problem, and a wall is only part of it.
What happens next? President Trump and the Democratic opposition presented their cases to the nation last night. No compromise is yet in sight. Perhaps President Trump will declare a national emergency and seek to fund the wall by using other, unappropriated funds. If he does so, there will be an immediate court challenge. Who knows how it would be resolved?
My earnest hope is that the Democrats will take the high ground and fund the wall. After all, it was a major promise made by Trump during his election campaign, and the American people elected him as their leader. I believe most American want the wall, and I think the wall is needed. The Democratic leadership would earn my respect if they would abandon their petty partisanship and do the right thing.
What is it that they say about a snowball’s chances in hell?