I am constantly being asked: “Why can’t the Congress and Trump find their way to a deal on a wall?”
Ok, constantly is a bit of an overstatement. One person asked me that question. And I think he might have been a little tipsy and was, in fact, asking: “Why can’t I find the bathroom down the hall?”
Seriously, here’s what I believe to be the case.
First of all, prior to January 3, 2019 Republicans controlled the House and Senate. Why didn’t they fund the wall when they owned both chambers of Congress? Because they needed 60 votes in the Senate and there was precious little appetite among Democrats in the Senate to cross over and provide the additional nine votes to break a filibuster.
During the campaign for the midterm elections, Donald Trump went to his base to drum up support for a wall. His base had already expressed its support for a wall. He wanted the election to turn on building a wall.
The Dems picked up 40 seats in the House, so they have a legitimate point in claiming their base is anti-wall.
Not just inside baseball, but inside-the-dugout, is this: Nancy Pelosi wanted to be speaker again. She needed 215 votes out of the 430 Members voting for a candidate. Fifteen Members of the Democratic Caucus did not vote for her, so she got 220 votes – five more than necessary. She was elected Speaker, but she didn’t exactly blow the roof off the rotunda getting there.
Upon accepting the gavel from Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California she said. “I pledge that this Congress will be transparent, bipartisan and unifying; that we will seek to reach across the aisle in this Chamber and across the divisions across our nation.”
This was, as Col. Sherman Potter might have said, “Mule Muffins,” because a few days later she said. “We’re not doing a wall. Does anybody have any doubt about that? We’re not doing a wall. So that’s that.”
Trump can’t compromise on funding a wall because when it looked like Vice President Mike Pence had come to The Hill with an offer above the $1.6 billion in the Senate bill, but less than the $5.6 billion Trump says he needs, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham flew into a joint frenzy in opposition.
They were so angry they made the Three Witches in Macbeth sound like they were three retired librarians channeling Dana Carvey’s “The Church Lady.”
“Double, double, Toil and Trouble / parties burn and Nonsense bubble,” indeed.
Mullpal Ed Rollins said that Trump’s wall promise reminded him of George H.W. Bush’s “read my lips, no new taxes” pledge. And, we know what happened to 41.
Pelosi can’t compromise on a wall because, like Trump, she can’t be seen as caving to the demands of the opposition party. At least not until she has some wins under her belt first. Pelosi is the senior Democrat in the nation – at least until a nominee is settled upon for President. Given the number of Governors, Senators, Representatives, business people, and others who have expressed an interest in running against Trump (if Trump is the GOP nominee) she will have her hands full for the next 18 months.
The last thing Speaker Pelosi wants to do is to spark an uprising from her left – led by at least some of those 40 freshman Members – that she will have to battle from now until she runs for re-election for Speaker in 2021.
So. Both sides are frozen in place. Until Pelosi can find some legislation that can make it through the Senate and onto Trump’s desk the shut-down will continue.
No wall. No funding bills. No kidding.
On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to Pelosi’s election to Speaker and to Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady.”