On Tuesday, Day 32 of the partial government shutdown, President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continued their sniping, while thousands of federal employees continued showing up for work without pay.
Trump says he won’t give in. (“No Cave!” he tweeted.) Pelosi accused him of holding the country hostage.
Meanwhile, out in the real world, representatives of the Greater Chicago Food Depository delivered relief supplies to Midway Airport TSA workers who are financially struggling. They got 25-pound boxes of nonperishables plus sweet potatoes and apples. Transportation Security Administration employees are among the lowest paid federal workers, yet they do vital work on behalf of the American people. Can we offer the same praise to the nation’s leaders? No.
The longer this absurd standoff lasts, and the more discomfort and inconvenience it inflicts, the more petty Trump, Pelosi and the others appear. They aren’t fighting over a principle, they are hoping to force the other side to flinch. Trump wants money for a wall on the southern border; Pelosi and other Democrats refuse. Both Republicans and Democrats do want to strengthen border protections. But they won’t compromise on their talking points, at the cost of a fully functioning government.
Back on Jan. 8 — otherwise known as Day 18 — we looked at the immigration issue, and urged Republicans and Democrats to negotiate a settlement that would reopen the government by giving both sides a way to claim victory. The agreement would involve protection for the so-called Dreamers, young immigrants without legal residency who were brought to the U.S. years ago by parents or guardians. Both the president and Democrats are sympathetic to the Dreamers. Trump offered a version of that deal on Saturday, but Pelosi shot it down before he even announced it. Two points for her ... in some people’s view, we guess.
Trump shoulders blame for the shutdown: He gave himself no negotiating room by demanding $5.7 billion in funding for a physical wall. That’s despite the fact that a long concrete or metal barrier isn’t needed or feasible to construct. What he should have done was speak metaphorically — a wall as a symbol of the country’s need to improve border security and immigration policy. The gauzier the promise, the more likely political leaders can craft a solution everyone can accept.
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also shoulder blame for the shutdown: They might have sought a wall-for-Dreamers compromise at any time. But they wanted to humiliate Trump by forcing him to back down.
Now both sides are boxed in.
On Tuesday, Congress dithered over various ideas that didn’t appear to have enough support to go anywhere. A group of centrist Democrats in the House suggested reopening the government in exchange for a later vote on the wall. In the Senate, lawmakers put forth competing bills, including one based on Trump’s Dreamers proposal that Pelosi rejected.
Mr. Trump and members of Congress: Some 800,000 Dreamers have received protection and hope to stay in this country. Some 800,000 federal workers have been idled or are working without pay. All of you profess your admiration for both groups. Those are just empty words, right?