Now that it’s (almost) over, it’s worth doing a little autopsy on the political world in 2018. When we look back we see a year of disappointments, missed opportunities, and ultimately failure on behalf of the Republican Party. And none were larger than the failure to build a wall to help secure our southern border.
It’s popular among elected Republicans to blame Democrats for this failure, but they own it. And they lost control of the House of Representatives, in part, because of it.
Republicans had control of both Houses of Congress, though you wouldn’t know it from a legislative perspective. Major campaign promises resulted in very little successful action, and while Democrats were committed to not helping, the GOP has no one to blame but themselves.
A small percentage of a small percentage of the government remains shut down as we prepare for 2019, in a fight over funding for a border wall. Democrats will never agree to the $5 billion President Donald Trump. At least not now.
The shutdown may end up yielding some nominal money that will be billed as a “victory” by the White House, but it won’t really be one. In just a few days, Democrats retake control of the House and Nancy Pelosi will have her hands on the Speaker’s gavel. Waiting till the end of the year to push this fight was the biggest political miscalculation of 2018.
It’s tough to call it a miscalculation, or even a mistake. It wasn’t like Washington was overwhelmed with other legislative priorities this year, it’s just that a wall wasn’t actually a legislative priority at all – not from Congress, and not from the White House.
They all talked a good game, Republicans campaigned in support of a wall, as did a couple of Democrats (West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin comes to mind). And the President mentioned his signature 2016 campaign promise as he crisscrossed the country holding rallies in support of GOP candidates. But true priorities aren’t reserved just for the campaign trail, they’re fought for continually, and no Republican did that.
If Republicans had been smart, which we know they weren’t, we wouldn’t be having a shutdown a week before Democrats take over the House, we would have had this fight in September. Before the midterms it was possible, at least significantly more so than now, for there to be 60 votes in the Senate for cloture on wall funding. So many Democratic Senators were up for reelection in states President Trump won, it would have been possible to peel them off to at least vote to end a filibuster.
But Republicans weren’t pushing funding a wall in September. Or October. Or anytime this year until it was beyond the point of possible. Which leads me to believe they weren’t serious about one in the first place.
Still, even after dropping the ball from a strategic perspective, a vote was possible in the lame duck session. But it would require what does not exist in the Senate – the will to force one.
If Senate Majority Leader “Cocaine” Mitch McConnell wanted to force a vote on the House-passed funding bill that included $5 billion for a wall he didn’t have the nuke the filibuster, he could have simply enforced Senate rules. Rule XIX says Senators can only speak twice on an issue before the body in a legislative day. McConnell could have forced Democrats to actually filibuster – meaning speaking on the floor of the Senate non-stop until they either gave up, in which case the filibuster would’ve ended, or until each Senator spoke twice. A “legislative day” can last as long as the Senate decides it last; it’s not bound by any clock.
This would have ended the filibuster automatically without changing any rules and the funding bill could have been passed with a simple majority. The only thing missing was the will.
Republicans didn’t lose in November because they’d kept their campaign promises and had nothing else to offer going forward. They lost because they didn’t follow through on the promises they were elected to fulfill. Yes, they cut taxes, but that was last year and long forgotten. Obamacare wasn’t repealed and replaced, even with the individual mandate penalty being zeroed out. And there was no progress on the wall, or even a push for one.
The caravan being in the news just before the election didn’t motivate people to vote for the candidates promising to secure the border, it served as a reminder that they hadn’t moved to build a wall when they had the chance. While it’s too late to keep control of the House, it’s never too early to do the right thing for the 2020 election. They have the rhetoric, all they need is the actual will.
Happy New Year!
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