With the government reopened — at least for the next three weeks — the pressure is on Congress to reach a consensus on how to achieve a deal that would prevent another shutdown from closing it down again once the current funding expires.
While polls all show that President Trump rightly bore the blame from the public for the shutdown that he said he’d be proud to own, one would think that he would be trying to avoid getting caught in the same self-laid trap if the next 21 days fails to produce a compromise acceptable to both the president —with his cabal of right-wing media harpies urging him to stick to his wasting of billions of taxpayer dollars on an ineffective medieval solution to a 21st century problem — and to Democrats who have vowed not to spend a penny on a wall but who are willing to discuss sensible solutions to border security.
It appears, however, that the Trump administration has already set the groundwork for accepting full blame for any subsequent shutdowns related to his border wall intransigence.
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Appearing on CBS News’ Face The Nation this morning, Trump’s Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney seemed to place responsibility for any new shutdown squarely at the president’s feet. Face The Nation host Margaret Brennan started her interview with Mulvaney by getting right to the point, asking whether Trump was “really prepared to shut down the government again in three weeks?”
Rather than placing the blame on the Democrats if that eventuality came to pass, Mulvaney instilled fear in every government worker who was relieved that they were finally getting paid again by replying: “Yeah, I think he actually is.”
It was a response that simply assumes that the president is the person pulling the levers that switch the government off, an assumption that was reinforced by Mulvaney’s subsequent comment that Trump “doesn’t want to shut the government down,” another indication of ownership of the actions that would lead to that scenario.
With Trump’s approval rating sinking rapidly in the wake of the economic damage caused by the unnecessary shutdown — and leery Republicans still accessing the political harm the shutdown has created for their reelection odds — the idea that he would risk further political damage to himself and to the Republican party by accepting responsibility in advance of any potential second shutdown undermines any leverage the threat would bring to the negotiating table with the Democrats.
Both Democrats and angry government workers now know that they merely have to orchestrate another sick-out by TSA workers and FAA flight controllers to bring the nation’s transportation system to a screeching halt as began to happen on a small scale on Friday when the ripples of pressure from the chaos of flight delays and cancellations inspired Trump’s capitulation.
Still, Mulvaney and the president still seem to believe that they can use the threat of a shutdown as a negotiating tool to get the funding for a border wall that was overwhelmingly rejected by the House of Representatives and couldn’t even pass the Republican-controlled Senate.
The White House Chief of Staff also kept open the possibility of Trump simply declaring a national emergency to allow him to order the military to construct his useless wall. In a second Sunday morning news program appearance on Fox News Sunday, Mulvaney said “It’s still better to get it through legislation,” calling the legislative process “the right way” to allocate funding for a wall.
“At the end of the day, the president’s commitment is to defend the nation and he’ll do it either with or without Congress,” he added.
Mulvaney also continued to peddle the fantasy that Democrats were starting to peel away from the remarkable unity they’ve demonstrated in the fight over the border wall funding, claiming without evidence that many Democrats “had come to us and said, you know what, we think you might be right on this barrier thing, but we cannot negotiate with you during a shutdown. We don’t like the fact that a president might use a shutdown as a negotiating tool, so if you open the government up, we’ll negotiate with you in good faith on a border barrier.”
Besides the fact that it was Senate Republicans who abandoned Trump’s proposal in the last round of voting to reopen the government before the president’s capitulation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has kept her members solidly united behind the idea of not allocating a dime for the wall while continuing to consider more sensible border security solutions like increased budgets for manpower and technology.
You can watch a clip of White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney on CBS’ Face The Nation in the video below.
.@MickMulvaneyOMB says @realDonaldTrump is prepared to shut down the government again in 3 weeks:
“Yeah… he's willing to do whatever it takes to secure the border… He doesn't want to… Let's make that very clear. He doesn't want to declare a national emergency.” pic.twitter.com/2WyquTmf3X
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) January 27, 2019
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Original reporting by Tommy Christopher at Mediaite.