Fighting for advantage in the government shutdown battle, President Donald Trump used a prime-time address on Jan. 8 to convince Americans that he needs billions of dollars from Congress for his long-promised border wall to resolve security and humanitarian problems he contends have reached a crisis pitch.
As of press time, the partial federal government shutdown is in its 19th day. According to estimates from the office of U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy, some 420,000 federal employees are working without pay — these include 41,000 federal law enforcement and correctional officers. Some 53,000 Transportation Safety Administration employees are working without pay, as are 54,000 Customs and Border Protection agents and officers. Roughly 380,000 federal employees have been furloughed.
For weeks, Trump has dug in on a signature campaign promise to his base voters, the pledge to build an impregnable “beautiful” wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. But now his self-proclaimed deal-making skills are being put to the test.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who made the televised rebuttal along with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, calls any such wall “an immorality,” and says her caucus won’t give a dime toward it.
Both sides are playing to their base and it has real-life consequences.
The fact that Trump is losing the shutdown fight in the court of public opinion shouldn’t be a surprise. He came into the negotiations in a rather weak position. Before the shutdown, Americans opposed the border by about a 10-to-20 point margin. There’s no sign that’s changed in the latest polling.
His other problem is that he is less popular than his main adversary, Pelosi. That’s quite a feat given that congressional leaders (by virtue of leading an unpopular branch of government) are usually unpopular. This hurts his ability to potentially win the shutdown by making it a popularity contest between two politicians.
Bottom line: Before any more harm is done, someone needs to repair our broken government. We need more grown-ups in Washington, D.C. — elected officials who are willing to put the good of the country before political calculation.