With negotiations over President Trump’s border wall at a standstill and partisans in both political parties running to their respective corners, the trash at America’s national parks is piling up and TSA employees are calling in sick. Americans don’t know who to blame more: congressional Republicans, congressional Democrats, or Trump. Most blame all three; a HuffPost/YouGov poll taken in late December registers negative ratings across the board.
Government shutdowns end in one of two ways. The two parties either sit down in a room and responsibly hash out an agreement to open it up, giving a little to get a little; or the bad press and political pressure gets so horrible for one party that it decides to surrender in order to save themselves from further damage.
The current shutdown is interesting in that, three weeks in, Trump and congressional Democrats are still dug into their positions. Trump continues to demand at least $5 billion in wall funding in exchange for reopening the government, and Democrats continue to oppose even considering one more dime for a physical barrier until the government’s lights are back on.
Even so, there is at least some evidence that Democrats are in a better position. For whatever reason, voters usually fault Republicans for these kinds of crises. The House GOP caucus under Speaker Newt Gingrich lost the shutdown battle with former President Bill Clinton, and Republican lawmakers were the exclusive losers during the 2013 shutdown. Moderate Republicans in the House and Senate running for re-election in purple states and districts understand the history and are beginning to question the White House strategy. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., have already called for the government to reopen, and Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., is writing for everyone to compromise on a bigger border-security-for-immigration-reform deal. The longer the shutdown drags on, the more work the White House will need to put in to keep the GOP caucus on Capitol Hill intact.
Right now, there isn’t much congressional Republicans can do on their own without Trump. As long as the president caters to his base and refuses to sign anything until wall funding is included, Senate passage of any funding bill will be an exercise in futility.
The only scenario that could possibly help the GOP is if the Senate Democrats do something stupid like shutting down the chamber and blocking any bill from moving forward until Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., brings up a spending package recently passed by the Democratic House. If recent reports from Capitol Hill are a guide to what is coming, obstruction could very well be the new Democratic strategy — one that would be a big reprieve for a GOP under pressure.
If Trump isn’t going to help out his fellow Republicans, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., might. Never underestimate Democrats’ ability to make things difficult for themselves.
Daniel DePetris (@DanDePetris) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. His opinions are his own.