President Trump doesn’t have any good options for continuing his fight to secure funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, especially since Senate Republicans have little desire to take the political pounding that would come with another partial government shutdown — and some are already balking at the idea of declaring a national emergency.
Trump could sign off on whatever deal the conference committee comes up with, even if it doesn’t include any wall funding; he could try to keep the wall fight alive, with or without another shutdown; or he could declare an emergency — even if it would raise some thorny constitutional problems, set a precedent that Democrats could capitalize on in the future and force Republicans in Congress to take a difficult vote that would splinter the party. GOP aides have estimated that “between three and 10 Republicans” in the Senate would vote with Democrats on a resolution of disapproval looking to block Trump from diverting money for the wall, The New York Times reported. The battle would be politically costly — and the issue would wind up in the courts anyway.
Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein summarizes the president’s predicament:
“The blunt truth is that Trump lost his chance for a border wall during his first two years in office. The deals that were probably available then, when he had Republican majorities in both chambers, simply aren’t there now. Republicans don’t want the wall badly enough to give Democrats what it would take to get the deal done, and Trump himself hasn’t even proposed such a trade. It’s not going to happen. Trump’s remaining options are either to lose without a fuss or to draw the fight out as painfully as possible for himself, his party and the country. Incredibly, he might just do that. But this time, Senate Republicans might not go along.”
Bernstein makes a strong argument that Trump, rather than move ahead with a national emergency, as he appears likely to do, might be best off agreeing to whatever deal congressional negotiators work out:
“If Trump signed off, he could continue to falsely claim that his wall is in fact being built, or he could complain and move on. Either way, he’s unlikely to lose his core fans, as some have claimed; the truth is that a politician’s strongest supporters are the most likely to make excuses for him and the least likely to turn against their favorite.”