We already knew that Republicans have been peeling away from the party line for days, with multiple GOP Senators, and perhaps dozens of House members, embracing the Democratic view that the government should be reopened before any real discussions about border security concessions can be entertained. Many conservatives don't trust Democrats to play ball after they win a leverage battle, but Trump's hand has been weakened by members of his own party who are feeling the heat back home. Shutdowns, no matter how partial or limited they may be, are not popular. Further strengthening Nancy Pelosi's hand is the apparent solidarity of her team in this battle.
But is Democratic unanimity beginning to fray? As the Associated Press' Tuesday fact check noted, it "takes two to tango," and voters in a number of Democrat-held districts are noticing that 'Chuck and Nancy's' reflexive recalcitrance is a major contributor to the current dysfunction. With the left-wing of the party spouting off about defunding ICE and questioning the relative Americanness of the Border Patrol, Politico reports that some centrist Democrats are starting to worry (see updates) that their leadership's strategy is too hard-headed:
Now, as the shutdown drags into Day 19, the frustration is starting to reach a tipping point for some who fear the prolonged stalemate could do real political damage in vulnerable Democratic districts. “If I am getting comments and contact from my constituents expressing concern that the Democrats are not prioritizing security, then I think we can do better,” said freshman Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.)...Democrats remain united behind their leadership’s shutdown strategy of refusing to negotiate with Trump on his border wall demand and pressuring Senate Republicans to take up House-passed bills to open up the government. But the first fissures are starting to show. The freshmen arranged an impromptu 90-minute meeting over the weekend at a retreat in Virginia because several new members were “freaking out” about the ongoing shutdown and the party’s strategy, according to a Democratic source who requested anonymity to speak candidly.
Thus far, Pelosi et al seem utterly unconcerned about the anxieties of centrist-leaning colleagues, reportedly deepening their resolve to offer Trump absolutely nothing at the bargaining table. I can understand that political calculation, but if Nancy really cares so deeply about government workers who will miss their first paychecks tomorrow, as she relentlessly claims, shouldn't she feel more media pressure to explain why she's committed to guaranteeing that very outcome? She's not a bystander; she's making a choice that denying Trump any semblance of a victory is more important than helping the families she constantly invokes. And might somebody pin her down for a specific justification of her 'walls are immoral' claptrap? A man can dream.
In any case, a cynic might suggest that this San Francisco multimillionaire cares more about the usefulness of the talking point than the actual people themselves, especially considering that she and Schumer refuse to entertain any additional money for barriers and fencing that Democrats have supported on multiple occasions in the recent past. If there's one thing Trump is absolutely correct about in this saga, it's that his election is the sole reason Democrats are abandoning their previous position. I'd love to hear Schumer and friends offer a persuasive alternative explanation, in detail, but the press is dutifully playing along by not asking such irritating questions:
So with no movement, at least one senator is moving to fill the void with something. I'll give Sen. Lindsey Graham credit on two counts: (1) He's long been a supporter of a DREAM Act-style solution to the ongoing legal limbo of DACA-eligible illegal immigrants (same here) so he's making his move, and (2) it's not like anyone else is making any progress in the current "negotiations." And thus, with the status quo seemingly halted at a standstill, Graham is trying to engineer a resolution. Kudos for that, but is this a good idea?
Graham is eager to produce legislation, which he said he hoped could emerge by the week’s end, that would include $5 billion for Trump’s border wall at the U.S.-Mexico border along with narrow legal protections for certain undocumented immigrants. More than 700,000 recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which helps the so-called “Dreamers,” are at risk for deportation, as are nearly 400,000 individuals in the country under Temporary Protected Status. “Democrats are not going to give the president $5.7 billion for border security unless they have something that they want, too,” Graham said. “I think there’s a deal to be had.”
In a different world, Democrats wouldn't need anything "in return for" enhancing border security, and Republicans would therefore have no problem supporting a 'clean' DREAM Act. But that's not where we are. Democrats view better security as a concession, and Republicans fear that formalizing DACA without much stronger enforcement in place would incentivize more illegal immigration. So some sort of trading of priorities is the right idea. But just last year, when Chuck Schumer was floundering to end the failed shutdown he forced on DACA, he offered the White House $25 billion in wall and security funding as part of a deal (then withdrew it because his base flipped out). If the president and his party are going to approve a major amnesty (again, I use that accurate word even as I support the outcome), it shouldn't be in exchange for roughly one-fifth of what was proffered in 2018.
Finally, because Trump apparently views a declaration of emergency powers as a politically (if not legally) viable escape hatch, he may opt for that power grab, rather than agreeing to anything. The government could reopen, he'd have stood his ground or whatever, and the lawsuits would fly. The courts would sort it all out. As I've been arguing, however, this is a perilous precedent, for reasons described by Marco Rubio and Rich Lowry. And it's also horrendous and irresponsible governance. I'll leave you with Allahpundit reminding liberals that legally-questionable assertions of authority in the face of an "unreasonable" Congress were all the rage when King Barack did it. Pen, phone, etc:
Remember, Obama had even explicitly said -- over and over again -- that he lacked the authority to do precisely what he ended up doing, both on DACA and DAPA. Trump hasn't done anything of the sort on his 'national emergency' gambit. But citing the abuses and hypocrisy of the other side (DAPA was struck down and DACA remains a mess) isn't a good argument in favor of contributing to the downward spiral.
Parting thought: Would Democrats support a "bare bones" bill to pay federal workers' salaries during the shutdown? That would help avoid a hardship Chuck and Nancy keep warning about, but it would also neuter a talking point. Which is more important to Democrats?
UPDATE - If barriers and fencing are okay with Democrats, why won't Chuck and Nancy take yes for an answer?