President Donald Trump is willing to own the partial government shutdown, even if it lasts for months.
Weeks ago, Trump told congressional Democrats that he would take complete responsibility for shutting parts of the government down if doing so was necessary to preserve America’s borders. And now, just to show that he isn’t bluffing, Trump confirmed that, while he hopes it will be resolved quickly, he was “absolutely” willing to extend the shutdown for “months or even years” if Democrats refuse to fund his planned border wall.
The long haul
Trump met with congressional leaders from both parties Friday afternoon to discuss a spending bill that would keep the government open, though without allocating the $5 billion Republican demand to construct parts of a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Following the White House meeting, Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer told reporters that the president threatened to keep the nine government agencies currently affected closed “for a very long period of time — months or even years.”
Rather than deny this allegation, as Democrats surely anticipated, Trump confirmed Schumer’s account during a Rose Garden press conference immediately following the meeting.
“Absolutely I said that,” Trump told CBS News’ chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett. “I don’t think it will, but I am prepared.”
— The Hill (@thehill) January 4, 2019
Refusing to cave
The president described the meeting with top Democrats and Republicans as “contentious” but “productive,” although Schumer told reporters that little progress had been made regarding ongoing negotiations. Backed by the GOP, Trump is demanding $5.6 billion to fund parts of a 1,250 mile border wall project estimated to cost in excess of $21 billion to build.
“It was a great meeting. It may get solved, it may not get solved,” Trump said.
So far, all signs point to a long and unresolved shutdown. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who reclaimed control of the House for Democrats on Thursday, has insisted that her caucus would not support any deal that includes funding for the wall, calling a barrier against illegal immigration an “immoral” creation.
“We cannot resolve this until we open up government, and we made that very clear to the president,” Pelosi said following the White House meeting.
Yet, if Republicans listened to Pelosi and opened up the government without securing funding for the wall, they would be sacrificing any leverage they maintain for future negotiations. As the shutdown enters its 15th day, neither party appears willing to concede their position.
On Monday, the partial government shutdown will become the second longest in U.S. history, bypassing an Obama era closure that lasted 16 days when GOP leaders tried and failed to block parts of the Affordable Care Act from being implemented.
The longest federal government shutdown occurred during the Clinton administration in 1995-1996 and lasted 21 days. President Bill Clinton and GOP leaders disagreed on how to properly balance the budget, and eventually Senate Republicans folded to pressure and abandoned their goal to enacting a 7-year budget plan.
With a particularly headstrong president in the Oval Office, and an equally obstinate Democratic Party in control of the House, the current government shutdown could shatter previous duration records. The stakes couldn’t be higher.