Fred Henneke, Attorney & Counselor-At-Law
To paraphrase from Laurel and Hardy, “This is a fine kettle of fish you have gotten me into!”
President Trump and Speaker Pelosi have given a conference committee of Congressional appropriators until February 15th (effectively the 9th) to come up with a formula for funding the 25% of the government that was shutdown for 31 days. The President says it MUST include funds for a border wall/physical barrier; Speaker Pelosi says over her dead body will there be funding for a wall. Not a very optimistic scenario. I hope the 800,000 Federal workers who were not paid during the previous shutdown have saved some of the back pay they have received, or will receive shortly.
Between the President and the Speaker sits Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican Majority leader. In my humble opinion, McConnell is the key to breaking the logjam and keeping the government operating. He, working with the GOP members of the committee, must come up with a narrative for border security money that includes, however vague, money for construction along the border. I am told that a portion of what is now considered border barriers are nothing more than barbed wire fences. Perhaps the funds could be couched as repair or improvement of existing physical barriers. Or the funds could be undesignated but intended for technology, more agents, more immigration courts, and physical enhancement while leaving the actual use up to a committee of professionals and the Secretary of Homeland Security. That has to be sold to the Democrats on the committee as the only option to another shutdown and the drastic consequences to the economy (and re-election chances). Then, McConnell has to appeal to the Speaker to sign off based on her side’s approval. Finally, McConnell has to sell it to the President, probably along the lines that another shutdown will be devastating to the Republican majority in the Senate. Lots of “ifs, ands or buts”; however, McConnell is the only one that can break the Congressional logjam.
The President has hinted that he has the non-Congressional solution to his border funding and will use it when the negotiations fail. Does he mean a declaration of national emergency, which would be immediately challenged in Court and probably stayed pending a final resolution of the court cases? That would probably mollify the “Base” but not result in a “Wall from Sea to Shining Sea”. Or has he found a way to use already appropriated defense funds for his Wall, which might also be challenged in Court? If he exercises either of these options, would he sign a bill to fund that portion of the government that was shutdown? I certainly hope so; one of my sons was caught up in the previous shutdown.
How did we get here? Well, when the purpose of your political rhetoric is not to advance solutions to critical national problems but villifying and debasing your political opponents, compromise, the mother’s milk of effective government, goes out the window. When partisan success, as opposed to principled solutions, is the goal, one never gets round to the actual reason for being there – TO SERVE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. Compromise does not equal surrender. Half a loaf is better then no loaf.
We shall collectively hold our breath, Are there any statesmen or women in Congress? Time will tell.