A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Bill Straub: For want of a wall, for a temper tantrum, for dodging responsibility — is government lost?

For want of a wall, the government was lost, at least partially, and it doesn’t look like the darn thing is going to be found anytime soon.

President “Tiny” Trump, once again throwing one of those tantrums we have all come to welcome and love, has decided to take his ball and go home, padlocking a goodly portion of the federal government because Congress won’t give him $5.7 billion to build what he once called “a real wall, it’s gonna be a high wall, it’s gonna be a beautiful” along America’s southern border with Mexico.

Democrats have long made it clear they are not enamored with building the Trump wall for several reasons, including the multi-billion-dollar price tag in a time of massive budget deficits and the uneasy feeling among the cognoscenti that it would simply prove ineffective. Polls show a majority of those questioned don’t think it’s a good idea. With 60 votes needed in the Senate to include construction funding, Democrats have proved able to block the initiative.

Bear in mind, Senate Democrats have offered compromises in the past, all of which have been rejected by the GOP majority. In most cases, in exchange for wall funding, Democrats sought to include protections for Differed Action for Childhood Arrivals, about 700,000 undocumented residents who entered the U.S. at a very young age and have little acquaintance with the places of their births.

Photo captured from video: When president said, ‘I will take the mantle. . . ‘

Basically, it was no DACA, no deal. So, no deal, which, of course, displeases The Donald.

Trump remains determined to build what can only be described as an ugly barrier to non-white people entering the land of the free and the home of the brave. And he intimated during a televised meeting with Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer and incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, that he would gladly shut down the federal government to get his way.

“I will take the mantle — I will be the one to shut it down,” Trump asserted in a statement that understandably gave members of the GOP establishment the vapors.

But Senate Republican Leader Mitch “Root-‘n-Branch’’ McConnell, of Louisville, the chamber’s alleged legislative Svengali, pooh-poohed the idea of a shutdown, assuring one and all that the closed sign would not be hanging on the federal government’s front door.

On Dec. 19, speaking to reporters in a Senate hallway, McConnell said Republicans would soon propose and pass a continuing resolution to avoid a partial government shutdown.

Subsequently, on the Senate floor, he offered lip service to the Trump wall, chiding Democrats for their “intransigence’’ and failure to “take our borders seriously,’’ but promised that the upper chamber would “soon take up a simple measure that will continue government funding into February, so we can continue this vital debate after the new Congress has convened.’’

Presumably, since he is in close contact with the White House, ol’ Root-‘n-Branch proceeded with the understanding that the president would sign the measure, thus keeping the full government operational. That notion received support from White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders who indicated to reporters that Trump was planning to withdraw his request for the funds in an effort to keep the government running.

Given all that, the Senate unanimously passed McConnell’s proposed funding measure, otherwise known as a continuing resolution.

But then something funny happened, not an infrequent occurrence since the American people opted to elect a president who doesn’t have the sense that God gave to either Beavis or Butthead. Criticized by many of his favorite right-wing cable television commentators for caving in, the nitwit-in-chief announced that he wouldn’t sign the package if it arrived on the Resolute desk.

And, of course, after publicly stating he would be “proud’’ to assume responsibility for the shutdown, our boy “Tiny’’ blamed the Democrats. The White House press office issued a statement asserting that “Senate Democrats own the Schumer Shutdown,” adding that “This is the behavior of obstructionist losers, not legislators.”

The House subsequently passed a funding package that included money for the Trump wall but, predictably, having been low bridged by the orange-haired incompetent, the Senate pretty much ignored it, resulting in the pre-Christmas shutdown. As of this writing, about 25 percent of government funding remains in purgatory affecting the Department of Homeland Security and eight other federal agencies. About 400,000 federal workers have been placed on furlough.

It’s pretty obvious what happened here. All sides were in agreement to keep the government operating through Feb. 8, postponing discussions regarding the Trump wall until the new year. Trump, after publicly acknowledging a shutdown would rest on his shoulders, acquiesced and gave the nod to McConnell to proceed, only to backtrack yet again and blow up the deal.

And what does our boy Mitch have to say about the shutdown, after vowing it wouldn’t occur, advancing and voting for a compromise measure supported by all other Republicans that was scotched, after extensive consultation, with the whining baby at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

It’s the Democrats fault, of course. The facts are all there. Yet McConnell, perhaps the most intellectually dishonest person to ever stand in the Senate well, after having vowed there would be no shutdown and voting for a compromise only to be scorched by a president of his own party, somehow places the responsibility on opposition Democrats.

“They brought this about because they’re under a lot of pressure, we all know, from their far left and feel compelled to disagree with the president on almost anything, and certainly this,” McConnell said.

Now it’s not unusual to see one side of the political aisle blame the other side for an obvious snafu. Democrats probably play that game as frequently as Republicans. What’s different here is that GOP lawmakers are backing a president who stated publicly – in front of television cameras, mind you – that he would proudly assume responsibility for any shutdown. Then, barely after taking a second breath, he pirouetted and blamed the opposition party for what he just did in broad daylight.

And he has performed this with the support of McConnell and the Senate Republican leadership, who emerged from this mess with egg on its collective face. As has often been said, they don’t even have enough sense to be embarrassed.

But the real question raised by all this is: When is enough going to be enough? Led by McConnell and, to a lesser extent, outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-WI, the GOP has served as enablers, allowing Trump to time and time again trash the democracy he is sworn to uphold. Now his misbegotten strategy has resulted in a partial shutdown of the federal government, leaving uncounted millions at some sort of loose end. And, thanks to GOP inaction, there’s no reason to believe the horror show that is the Trump administration is going to end any time soon.

Since the death of Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, no Republican lawmakers have exhibited a willingness to stand up to Trump administration insanity. A couple, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-AZ, and Sen. Bob Corker, R-TN, have expressed some displeasure, including the president’s decision to closed-down government. But both leave office in early January, having decided not to seek re-election, leaving the party with a bunch of Trump sycophants, led by the man from Louisville.

The shutdown is another example of congressional Republicans submitting to Trump’s will, even if it harms the republic. And none of them is strong enough to do anything about it.

It’s not that these lawmakers agree with the bizarre stuff he pulls or says on a regular basis.

The NKyTribune’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com.

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One Comment

  1. Roger Auge Ii says:

    Another Straub hammer that hits the nail and worn out root-and-branch right on their hard but empty heads.

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