As of midnight last night, the “shutdown” is officially upon us: funding for the federal government’s non-essential functions has run out. This means government employees in “non-essential positions” – hundreds of thousands of people – will be forced to work without pay for as long as this shitshow continues, then receive full back pay afterwards. Who knows when that might be. Happy holidays!
This is basically a story of Donald Trump spending three years talking himself in circles and then stepping in his own trap.
So, how did we get here? First note that the president has been all over the place on this issue, pretty much from the moment he announced his candidacy. Think I’m kidding?
He’s said he will build the wall “quickly” and “eventually“, and “one way or the other.” He’s said he’s “already” gotten “large portions” of it built.
He’s said it “needs to be concrete,” that it will be “steel slats,” and that fixing “existing acceptable fences” would be fine.
He’s said it will span “the entire U.S.-Mexico border.” He’s said “it was never intended to be built in areas where there is natural protection such as mountains, wastelands or tough rivers or water“.
He’s said it will cost $5 billion, $8 billion, $10 billion, $12 billion, $15 billion, $18 billion, $20 billion, $21.6 billion (this from the Trump DHS) and $25 billion.
He’s said, “Mexico will pay for the wall,” which raises the question of why we’re even discussing the cost of this to begin with. He’s said getting Mexico to pay for the wall would be “easy” and that payment would come from some involuntary Mexican reimbursement plan.
He’s said “changes to NAFTA” (or the USMCA, or whatever he’s decided to call it) will pay for the wall. He’s said the reduced amount of drugs brought across the border would amount to the wall “pay[ing] for itself in a month.”
Just this past March, he threatened to veto a bill that included $1.6 billion for wall renovation/construction, then signed the bill later that day, then neglected to spend most of that $1.6 billion.
No wonder Congress never got serious about funding the wall. This Congress is terrible at passing easy bills, and Trump won’t decide on what this one’s supposed to look like. Looking at all of the above, I find it hard to believe Trump can wake up and decide what he wants for breakfast.
Anyway, it seemed like he and the Republicans would go on this way forever: Trump talking about the wall, Republicans nodding approvingly but never acting. Several funding bills came and went without a real effort at funding the wall. So, what changed this week?
Two things, actually. First, the 2018 election (Democrats took the House and have no intentions of funding this boondoggle) meant Republicans are now facing their last, best chance to make this happen.
However, despite Trump yelling during a White House meeting with Chuck and Nancy that he would “take the mantle” of shutting down the government over funding the wall, VP and Most Vanilla Man Alive, Mike Pence, told Congress that Trump would sign a bill without such funding.
Enter Ann Coulter. You know Ann Coulter. Always going on conservative TV shows saying intentionally crazy things such as, “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims,” and, “My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building.” (Timothy McVeigh, in case you are scoring at home, is a non-Muslim terrorist.) She wrote an article excoriating Trump titled, “GUTLESS PRESIDENT IN WALL-LESS COUNTRY” in which she flayed him for not trying hard enough to build the wall.
Other conservatives followed suit, including the hosts of Fox and Friends, whom the president thought were his actual friends. Mark Meadows (R-NC) of the “Freedom Caucus” begged the president to insist on funding the wall.
So the president reversed course at the 11th hour and now insists any bill funding the government must include $5 billion for the wall. Why $5 billion? No one knows. What does “the wall” mean in this instance? No one knows.
The only thing anyone knows for sure is that zero Democrats, after wiping the floor with Republicans in the election just one month ago, are about to grant the president this wish. Why would they?
President Trump now says he’s not budging until the Democrats pay this ransom. He’s warning the government shutdown caused by his incompetence could last “a long time.” No one sees a way out of this mess. Merry Christmas!