By Jeffrey Albertson/Jan 3. 2018
Republicans in the senate face a compromising position as the government shutdown drags on. Earlier this week, house Democrats announced a funding package to open the government. Obviously, minus any specific border wall funding. Doubtless, Republicans have two options:
1. Accept the house plan and officially close the door on the border wall.
2. Reject the house plan and pursue border wall funding, reinforcing the president’s demands.
Should option one be selected, Republicans would be directly thumbing their nose at the president and his base, some of which would have supported election bids in 2016 & 2018. Keep in mind the president has said on numerous occasions Mexico would pay for the wall, not the American taxpayer.
Should option two be the choice, Republican are choosing to start the 116th legislative session out by dying on a hill that the party has lacked the political will to fight for since the president took office. The fallout of this would be detrimental to re-election bids in 2020.
It would be easy for Republicans to obtain 60 votes on a funding package without specific wall funding. With the most recent legislation taken up by the Senate which includes wall funding, only 47 senators favored and the vice president voted for the bill. 48 is well short of the needed 60 vote threshold. Senate Leader McConnell could use the nuclear option, which the president pleaded for, but with the Democrats now controlling that house, that option is moot.
Another possible scenario could be that the president vetoes funding passed by the house and senate. Should that happen, presumably the bill would be overridden.
As Robert Frost wrote: “Two roads diverged in a wood…I took the one less traveled by, and that had made all the difference.” Political prognostication can seem like a fool’s errand, especially in the recent state of the union, but for the sake of the country and the 800,000 government personnel, including the Coast Guard who have been without pay, the best way to return the government to full operation is to pass a plan without border wall funding, then the president can make the case to Congress for funding. That’s how our system works, not holding government salaries hostage in hopes of gaining funding for something a Republican controlled congress previously lacked the political will to fight for.