Trump’s Government Shutdown Would Be a Catastrophic Self-Own

Last weekend, President Trump tweeted that he is willing to shut down the federal government if Democrats don’t support his list of border security measures. It wasn’t clear at the time whether the president was serious, or whether this was just another one of his Twitter “opinions” that shouldn’t be taken literally. He’s repeated the idea in the days since, most recently at his Thursday night rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where he pondered aloud whether he should shut down the government before or after the November midterms. “A lot of well-meaning Republicans say, ‘Look, we’ve got the best economy ever. We’re doing great. Maybe we don’t want to complicate it,’ the president told rally-goers. “And I understand it. And I’m a little torn myself. But I’d personally prefer before.”

Republicans have objected to the idea of a Republican president shutting down the Republican-controlled government immediately prior to one of the most significant Congressional elections in years. “It’s a negotiating tactic. I hope it’s a negotiating tactic,” Sen. John Thune (R-SD) told reporters Monday. “We’re just going to try and get our work done and get it done on time. Hopefully the president will sign those bills.” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) added that “it’s not to anyone’s advantage to shut down the government.”

A shutdown would derail the efforts of Senate Republicans to pass a number of spending bills, which they have been doing successfully. But spending bills are not an issue that resonates with Trump’s base — or the president himself — quite like the drama of a government shutdown. Trump has been honing his attacks on Democrats around the issue of border security for months, and a shutdown would be a formidable foundation on which to hammer the crime-loving Democrats in anticipation of the fall midterms. It would certainly give Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh plenty to talk about, and it’s no surprise they appear to be guiding the president’s thinking on this issue.

On Tuesday, Trump tweeted that “there is no way that the Democrats will allow” the situation at the border to be fixed without a shutdown. It’s consistently been the president, though, who has thwarted efforts to make progress, ostensibly for no other reason than that he is incapable of agreeing to anything that could be construed as a compromise, even when he’s getting the better end of the deal. In March, Democratic lawmakers were willing to include the full $25 billion necessary to fund the border wall in the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill, so long as Trump agreed to provide a pathway to citizenship for the 1.8 million “dreamers” — or DACA recipients who were brought to America as children — living in the United States. Trump rejected the deal, insisting that Democrats also agree to a host of other immigration reform measures that several Republicans struggled to support. The bill would ultimately pass without any DACA protections, wall funding or immigration reform measures.

As Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, told the Washington Post at the time, “President Trump had an opportunity to deliver on two promises. One, build the wall. Two, to sign a ‘bill of love’ for dreamers. His desire to slash legal immigration and increase immigration enforcement makes delivering on these promises impossible. To put it another way: Trump had two birds in hand; now he’s got nothing.”

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