For the third time this year, a federal government shutdown looms as President Donald Trump demands more money for a Southern border wall in exchange for a budget deal with congressional leaders.
How can Trump blame Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, who is expected to be speaker of the House, for not paying up when he’s always promised that Mexico will foot the bill? Trump’s new wrinkle Thursday was a tweet claiming his trade deal with Mexico is so good that “just by the money we save, MEXICO IS PAYING FOR THE WALL!” Economists across the political spectrum scoffed at the assertion.
Trump is stymied after Tuesday’s meeting with Pelosi and Schumer. Democrats have offered $1.3 billion for border security, approximately the same amount appropriated for this year, but mostly not spent. But the math didn’t dominate a meeting that turned confrontational. Trump needled Pelosi by implying she is weak in her caucus, and he seemed blown back when she hit hard on his party’s House losses. And by Thursday, it was clear she’d soon have the gavel in hand. The president also taunted Schumer, only to have the grimacing senator say of his budget offer, “It’s called funding the government, Mr. President.” Then Trump pounced on the idea of a shutdown, saying, “I will take the mantle, I will be the one to shut it down,” if the Democrats won’t fund more of the wall.
In January, Schumer offered Trump $25 billion for the wall in return for protection from deportation for 800,000 immigrants brought here as children. Trump declined, and much of the U.S. government shut down for three days. Trump often wants to fight, especially on the wall, more than he wants to win. But the nation does not want a shutdown. Polls show most Americans want a path to residence for “Dreamers,” whose lives are so important that Trump should get more wall money to secure their futures.
If Trump wants that, Democrats ought to listen. If not, they can let him shoulder a shutdown. Or as Schumer said Thursday, he can use that Mexico money he says “we” already have saved. Just show us where to claim it, Mr. President.