12.21.2018 0

How Trump can get the wall with the pocket veto

By Robert Romano

President Donald Trump is threatening to not sign the government spending bill if it does not include $5 billion for the southern border wall.

Upon signing the farm bill, the President made a brief statement about the wall, saying, “I’ve made my position very clear: Any measure that funds the government must include border security.  It has to.  Not for political purposes but for our country, for the safety of our community… I am asking Congress to defend the border of our nation for a tiny fraction — tiny fraction of the cost. Essential to border security is a powerful, physical barrier.  Walls work whether we like it or not.  They work better than anything.”

Trump added, “In life, there are certain principles worth fighting for — principles that are more important than politics, party, or personal convenience.  The safety and security and sovereignty of the United States is the most important principle of all.  If we don’t stand strong for our national borders, then we cease to be a nation and we betray our commitment to the loyal citizens of our great country. I look forward to signing a bill that fulfills our fundamental duty to the American people.  It is all about — and I say this in any way they want to hear it — it’s all about America First.  We have to put our country first.  We have to put our people first.  And we have to put safety first.”

Afterward, the House passed the wall funding with $5.7 billion and keeping the government open.

Trump is drawing a line in the sand. On Twitter this morning he wrote, “The Democrats, whose votes we need in the Senate, will probably vote against Border Security and the Wall even though they know it is DESPERATELY NEEDED. If the Dems vote no, there will be a shutdown that will last for a very long time. People don’t want Open Borders and Crime!”

Now, depending on when Congress agrees upon legislation to keep the government fully funded after Dec. 21, President Donald Trump might only need to do nothing to guarantee the government is partially shut down into the new year when Congress returns on Jan. 3 — giving him the leverage he needs to get the wall funded.

That’s because in Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution, it states that “If any bill shall not be returned by the President within ten days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be law, in like manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their adjournment prevent its return, in which case it shall not be a law.”

Meaning, if both chambers of Congress do not pass identical spending bills before Dec. 22, there won’t be enough days left in the legislative year to vote to override a presidential pocket veto, because Congress will have adjourned before the 10-day window it would take for the bill to become law.

But let’s say Congress does get a bill to the President before the end of today, which is Dec. 21. That would take the 10-day window out to Jan. 2, 2019.

Meaning, Trump could wait until the ninth legislative day, which will be Jan. 1, 2019, and then veto the spending bill. The government would still partially shut down on Dec. 22, and Congress would have to come back on Jan. 1 or Jan. 2 in order to override the veto.

But why would Congressional Republicans do that their own President?

Better to just let the new Congress take care of it, after all the retiring members are gone and the new members are sworn in.

Alternately, the House and Senate could just fail to pass the same piece of legislation. The outcome is the same.  Then, Congress will have to make their first order of business attempting to fund the government. This is where it gets interesting.

What will happen is the new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will pass a bill, either a short-term continuing resolution or the remainder of the year omnibus, without the wall funding.

If the GOP Senate agrees with that bill, then Trump could wait another nine legislative days to veto it, taking the government shutdown out to Jan. 15, or veto it immediately, and then each chamber would have to must two-thirds of each chamber to override the veto.

By this time, if the White House has done everything necessary to ensure victory, it will have identified and recruited at least 146 Representatives and/or 34 Senators, more than one-third of either chamber, to use their votes to sustain presidential vetoes on spending bills.

This when the American people will learn if Republicans in Congress stand with the President of their party or with Washington, D.C. establishment once and for all. If they stand with Trump, then Nancy Pelosi will be unable to impose her will on the White House and the Senate. It will force a negotiation.

At this point, Trump should increase the price of the wall to the full $25 billion. Then, it’s time to play hardball.

Recall, through this whole time, the government will have been partially shut down for almost a month, excepting the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services and Labor. Non-essential employees will be furloughed. If the government remains shut down indefinitely, it will eventually cause hardship for the 2.2 million federal employees who are a part of the civil service, excepting those aforementioned departments that are already funded.

After several weeks or months, eventually they’re going to have to pay their bills, including their mortgages. How many of them are living month-to-month? At some point, pressure will be brought to bear to reopen the government, even if it means giving Trump his wall. Pelosi cannot let government employees be without pay for months.

But to see it through, President Trump and Republicans in Congress sustaining his vetoes will need spines of steel. The news media will be running stories about the hardships the families of government employees not getting paid must face, but they cannot give in. That’s the only leverage they had.

In “The Art of the Deal,” President Trump once wrote: “Leverage: Don’t make deals without it.”

At the end of the day, it has to be that the only way to reopen the government will be to build the wall.  If Republicans can survive what will be an onslaught of negative publicity from keeping the government shut and not paying the federal workers, then Congress will be the ones to relent.

A negotiation will be had, and it will have to include the border wall, and then heading into FY 2020, Republicans will have additional clout they lacked before. Suddenly, you’ll see regular order on appropriations bills restored and a bipartisan agreement hammered out. To restore fiscal sanity in Washington, D.C., everyone has to give a little something. Trump gets to say he wants a wall on the spending bill if he can sustain a veto.

Democrats will have to give the wall. And they know it. Which is why they want Republicans to defeat themselves first. Nancy Pelosi cannot impose her will if Republicans don’t let her. If the GOP sticks together with President Trump on this one, they will prevail and get the wall.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.

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