01.28.2019 0

Observations from a very bizarre week in Washington, D.C….

By Rick Manning

Point One:

Senators Tom Cotton and Mike Lee made the right decision to oppose the funding bill offered by Majority Leader McConnell on Thursday, January 24th which included money for the wall for three reasons:

First, it was a show vote that was not going to pass, and yet it included concessions which changed the baseline of the debate to include extension of deadlines allowing DACA applicants to stay in the country with legal status without having garnered a single Democrat vote for those changes. Effectively, President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner was busily negotiating against himself while dealing with the Democrats and convinced the President to sweeten the pot without getting anything for it.

As a result, Thursday’s vote needed some conservatives to withhold support due to the changes to demonstrate that significant concessions on immigration would also cost votes in the Senate.

Second, before the vote even was taken, Kushner reportedly was expanding the offer behind the scenes basically asking Democrats to name their price for a deal.  The only way to stop the inevitable bad policy that would result was to attempt to bring the process to a halt.  Senator Cotton and Lee stood up for President Trump’s immigration principles even as the President’s son-in-law was seeking to sell them out.

Third, the language in the bill included controversial exclusions on the spending for the wall. Americans for Limited Government became concerned and inquired of a number of legislative offices to find out if they believed the modified steel barriers which the President was describing could be built based upon the actual language in the bill.  No one answered definitively that it could be built with a number of responses indicating uncertainty. After battling for more than a month to secure funding for the wall, it would have been legislative malpractice to vote for legislation that may not have allowed the monies to be spent on the steel barrier structure that the President intends to build.  Senators Cotton and Lee got it right when they voted no because if the Democrats had passed the legislation, lawsuits would have been filed based upon the ambiguity on whether the funds could be spent.

Point Two:

President Trump delays State of the Union address.

The President decided to delay the State of the Union address rather than give it in an alternate location, and it is likely that Speaker Pelosi will not extend another invitation before the February 15 deadline for the wall funding appropriation bill.

It is Pelosi’s worst nightmare for the President to have Angel family after Angel family introduced in the gallery as her Democratic members have to decide whether to stand and applaud or sit silently in front of a national audience.  This is why the SOTU was cancelled by the Speaker, and it is why it is highly unlikely that there will be a State of the Union address to the joint session of Congress any time soon.

If the President gave an address elsewhere it would not have the same impact as the official State of the Union, having the effect of taking Pelosi off the hook.

Point Three:

The President signs legislation opening the government for three weeks with no additional wall funding.

This decision was caused by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who effectively withdrew his support for the shutdown when he had two of his key lieutenants, Senators Johnny Isakson (GA) and Lamar Alexander (TN), vote with the Schumer/Pelosi plan.  McConnell reportedly attacked the shutdown strategy in conference to the Vice President, meaning that the GOP, once again, collapsed before the Democrats, even though Pelosi reportedly had thirty Democrats pushing her to fund the wall at some level and get the government open.

These fights are based upon who blinks first and through the President’s expanded DACA proposal and McConnell’s decision, Pelosi kept her cool longer than they did.

Point Four:

So what does it mean?

The good news is that the Democrats and some Republicans no longer have the skirts of federal workers to hide behind over the next three weeks making them vulnerable to an aggressive grassroots operation.  A full-scale political effort aimed at the Democrats could force Pelosi and Schumer to at least partially fund the wall in order to hold their caucuses together.  The bad news is that the President’s political operation and the Republican National Committee showed little ability to mobilize the grassroots during the shutdown, so it seems ambitious to think that a wave of competence might overcome them in the next few days.

Point Five:

Pelosi and Schumer spiked the football on the twenty yard line, which is a huge mistake. But if the President’s team keeps negotiating against itself undermining their supporters, while failing to meaningfully target vulnerable Democrats, the President will lose this funding battle and will have to fund the wall through an emergency declaration or via other Congressional authorization.

Bottom Line:

I have sat in two meetings with the President in the past three weeks where he has discussed the wall funding issue. He will get a wall built. It would just be much better if it could be done through an unassailable process and that means demanding that Democrats and Republicans fund a steel barrier putting our nation’s security first.

Rick Manning is the President of Americans for Limited Government.

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