President walks away from a Republican with a plan to reopen government

Mark Trahant

House hearing today will hear stories about the impact of the government shutdown, including Indian Country

The longest government shutdown in the history of the country is not ending soon. President Donald J. Trump Monday rejected a plan that would have ended the dispute with Democrats, while still opening up the possibility for construction of the border wall.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, suggested the president end the shutdown for three weeks. Then the president could then negotiate with Democrats, and, if unsuccessful, declare an emergency and build the wall using executive power.

But the president said no, clinging to the idea that the Democrats will capitulate and give him what we wants.

And the Graham solution would only have been a temporary resolution because even if the president declares a national emergency, he would still have to ask Congress for the money again in September.

But that’s also true if the Democrats give in. The president will still have to ask for more money for a border wall, probably at least another $15 or $20 billion. Research by the Brookings Institute says the money requested by President Trump will only fund about 230 miles, or about 11.5 percent of the southern border’s distance.

Plus on top of that divide there are two tough spending fights ahead: Congress must get bipartisan agreement (including the president) on lifting the debt limit (think of it as the nation’s credit card ceiling) plus Congress must pass a budget or all federal agencies will be subject to sequester.

Republicans don’t like the sequester option (which is already the law) because it will include the Defense Department. Democrats don’t like the sequester option because it would impact every federal agency with across-the-board spending cuts. But that is what is ahead, unless Congress and the president figure out how to work together.

One alternative is for Congress to use its power as a co-equal branch of the government and pass legislation without the president. But for that to happen, most Republicans in the House and Senate would have to vote with Democrats, and the Senate Majority Leader would have to agree to call up the legislation. In other words … that’s not likely. At least yet.

The other option is for Democrats to give in to the president. On the wall today. On the budget going forward. And on a severe shrinking of all government ahead. So in other words … that’s not likely either.

Then the Washington Post reported a dramatic shrinking of government is exactly what some members of the administration want. “Conservatives have for decades questioned the size and effectiveness of the federal bureaucracy,” The Post said. “This shutdown has in some ways underscored their view that government can function with fewer employees.”

But that logic makes no sense to the people already working for the federal government. More than 800,000 people are either working without pay for furloughed without pay while this dispute drags on.

Today on Capitol Hill, the House National Resources committee will hold a hearing on the impact of the shutdown on Indian Country. The hearing will be live streamed at 11 am Eastern.

“President Trump’s government shutdown is hurting Americans and it has to end now,” said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Arizona, chairman of the committee. “The stories of what this manufactured crisis is doing to real people need to be told, and they need to be heard by the president and his supporters. I’ve already been hearing from families suffering because of the president’s inability to lead the country. It’s time end this madness and reopen the government.”

Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Oklahoma, again made his pitch that the Indian Health Service should be removed from the budget debate. He tweeted Monday: “#NativeAmerican #healthcare doesn’t belong in the middle of partisan bickering and political spending fights. I’m working to keep #IndianCountry’s health care out of it.” Mullin has proposed legislation to make that so, H.R. 195.

A new poll shows more Americans are agreeing with the Democrats. According to a Quinnipiac University National Poll: American voters support 63 - 30 percent a Democratic proposal to reopen parts of the government that do not involve border security while negotiating funding for the wall. Every party, gender, education, age and racial group supports this idea except Republicans, who are opposed 52 - 39 percent.

Across the board, the poll found Americans dismissing the Republican arguments about border security.

Quinnipiac University found:

  • 59 - 40 percent that the border wall is not a good use of taxpayer dollars;
  • 55 - 43 percent that the wall would not make the U.S. safer;
  • 59 - 40 percent that the wall is not necessary to protect the border;
  • 52 percent say the wall is against American values as 41 percent say the wall is consistent with American values.

The numbers were not that much better from the president's favorite pollster, Rasmussen. Trump's approval rating from Rasmussen Reports fell to 43 percent among likely voters, the lowest since January 2018 when it bottomed out at 42 percent. Trump's latest disapproval rating was 55 percent.  

Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter - @TrahantReports


Indian Country Today interactive spreadsheet:

Impact of shutdown on tribal communities

Impact on individuals, nonprofits

Previous stories:

Waiting for a thaw in Washington

Out of touch? White House says unpaid workers are 'better off'

Tribal leaders say government closure puts citizens in jeopardy

Government Shutdown: Tribes suffer job losses, bad roads, no healthcare access

Comments (1)
No. 1-1

I wasnt polled about the wall, the shutdown, whether i think the wall would work or not. And it seems this is a bit biased