Get Ready for a Shutdown

Yesterday Greg Sargent wrote that House Republicans were doing their best to save Trump from himself.

As the New York Times reports, now that Democrats have refused Trump’s demand for $5 billion in money for his border wall, Republicans are “casting about for ways to choreograph a compromise that would protect Mr. Trump’s ego and still be broadly acceptable.” …

… Democrats aren’t his only obstacle: The GOP-controlled House has refused to vote on a measure containing the $5 billion Trump wants, because many Republicans are uncertain it can pass. But Trump’s insistence that “we will win on the Wall” is a key tell that this is really just about Trump winning.

Indeed, the need to create the impression that Trump isn’t losing is driving the latest developments. Senate Republicans offered Democrats a deal in which $1 billion of border money would be treated as a “slush fund” for Trump, which presumably could maybe sort of be used toward a wall. Democrats rejected it for that reason. The White House has also vaguely said Trump will somehow find wall money elsewhere.

That latter idea is in keeping with another one of Trump’s claims — that the military will build it, funded by the renegotiated NAFTA, which is meant to show that Mexico is paying for it, after all. But this math isn’t close to credible, and it’s highly likely that Trump can’t find wall money legally without congressional approval, which Democrats won’t grant. So now Republicans are talking about trying to pass a short-term funding bill without the wall money that would kick this battle into the new year, so Trump can say he’ll pick up the fight again.

In one way or another, these ideas are all about saving face for Trump. Congressional Republicans are basically in the process of negotiating his surrender.

Well, it was all for naught. This is today:

President Trump said Thursday he would not sign a stop-gap spending bill if it didn’t include money to build a wall along the Mexico border, sending large parts of the federal government lurching towards a shutdown on Saturday.

His comments came after an emergency meeting with House Republican leaders, where Trump first revealed he would reject a measure passed in the Senate the night before. That measure would fund many government agencies through February 8, but it would not include any new money for a border wall.

CNN reports that Senate Republicans are having cows.  Those House Republicans who are still in Washington and haven’t left for Christmas break are struggling to put an amendment into the bill that gives Trump his $5 billion. But no one thinks it could pass the House, never mind the Senate. Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman:

Even if this does somehow pass the House, it’s D.O.A. in the Senate. What’s more, looking forward, it’s not like the president is going to be able to get the House to fund the wall once all those newly elected Democrats come into Congress after the new year and Pelosi is the speaker. So what is he thinking?

The answer may be: not much. Which is to say that Trump doesn’t really have a plan here, he’s just reacting out of frustration. And he’s also being pushed by one of the forces he’s least able to resist: the right wing of his own party.

Sargent and Waldman point out that over the past couple of days the Right Wing Intelligensia, people like Limbaugh and Ingraham, have been complaining about Trump backing down on wall funding. They add:

What we see in these situations is not the right pushing Trump to do something he doesn’t want to do, but the right encouraging him to follow his urges, even when they’re politically foolish and are likely to ultimately fail. The more sensible people around him are no doubt saying, “We just don’t have a choice here: There aren’t enough votes for the wall, and you’ll get blamed it a shutdown happens. How does this end well for you?”

Part of Trump understands this. But another part of him doesn’t want to believe it. And the right speaks to the latter part.

So, he’s going to self-destruct.

In other news, as of this afternoon Jim Mattis is out as Secretary of Defense. Trump tweeted Mattis would be leaving at the end of February.

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