Most Americans know that President Donald Trump’s wall is less about border security than putting on a show for his political base.
Trump was ready last month to approve a government funding plan that had no wall money. Then right-wing media personalities pounced, goading him into shutting down a third of the government.
As a result, 800,000 public workers, including most in the Department of Homeland Security and 24,000 in law enforcement, are not being paid. Many deportations are on hold because immigration courts, which have a backlog of almost 1 million cases, are shut down. Employers can’t verify that new hires are in the country legally because the E-Verify service is unavailable.
On Thursday, the House, newly under Democratic control, was expected to move to end the shutdown by approving basically the same spending plan that the Senate unanimously approved before Christmas. The difference: Homeland Security funding would end Feb. 8, giving Congress and Trump time to negotiate border security priorities. Otherwise, the House plan funds the government through this fiscal year at the levels approved just a few weeks ago by the Senate.
What’s not to like about that if you’re Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans? It’s their spending plan, and the government re-opens.
Yet, McConnell insists the Senate won’t vote on the House plan or any plan that Trump won’t sign.
To which we have one word: Override.
Congress has the power and, we suspect, the numbers to override a Trump veto. The threat of an override would probably bring Trump to the table.
McConnell, up for re-election next year, and other Senate Republicans understandably dread incurring Trump’s wrath, especially since it might inspire a Republican challenger.
But McConnell has to know the Trump presidency would eventually force a choice upon him. Now would be a good time to choose to lead.
McConnell and Congress should re-focus the government on effective strategies for protecting Americans. It’s insulting to talk about spending billions on a medieval-style wall when no one, not even Trump, can nail down exactly what he wants. Former White House chief of staff John Kelly recently said Trump had long ago abandoned the notion of a solid concrete structure, while Sen. Lindsey Graham says the wall is “a metaphor for border security.”
Trump replied, via Twitter, that “an all concrete Wall was NEVER ABANDONED” though it will be “see through” at some points.
Trump’s wall, whatever it is, will not make us safer, while the shutdown makes us less safe. Despite the influx of asylum-seeking families, the number of undocumented immigrants is down, from a peak of 12.2 million in 2007 to 10.7 million in 2016.
With the threat of an override amplifying his persuasive powers, McConnell should help Trump see a face-saving win in obtaining funds to handle the influx of families, clear the immigration court backlog and resume paying the experts who protect us from real terrorist plots.