There seems to be little room for compromise now in Washington where the Oval Office and congressional Democrats sit diametrically opposed to the conundrum of funding President Donald Trump’s border wall with Mexico. As a result, more than 800,000 federal workers remain either furloughed or working without pay as the shutdown of the United States government now becomes the longest in that nation’s history — with no end in sight.
On Wednesday, a meeting between President Trump, senior Democrats and Republicans ended abruptly and without any solution as congressional leaders said they would not be providing any funds for the construction of that border wall, be it either of concrete or steel. The Oval Office has demanded $5.7 billion (Dh20.95 billion) in funding to advance that construction, while critics say it would require $15 billion, would be ineffective and there’s little need for it anyway.
Earlier in the week, Trump used the first prime-time address of his tenure to make the case for the wall, saying that unless it was built — and built quickly — a security and humanitarian crisis on the southern US border would escalate rapidly. The Democratic leadership responded immediately afterwards to say Trump was scaremongering, making the case that getting the shutdown US government back up and running was the issue that required immediate attention.
Against all these developments in Washington, what has been consistent is the silence of the majority of Republican senators — who have the ability to approve congressional bills to end the shutdown, if Trump could be convinced to sign them. Certainly, if those bills were at least approved and forwarded to the Resolute Desk for signature or veto, the measures would be in place to end the shutdown one way or another.
Trump has indicated that he may use his powers to declare border security a national emergency, putting the US military in charge to build it using funds already dispersed to the Pentagon for other projects. In doing so, he would likely trigger a long and protracted court fight over the extent and intent of executive power legislation — one that might not be resolved in the courts for years to come. But if he did that, at least he could point to his talk-radio constituency that he was firm in his actions by ordering the wall to be built.
The current standoff clearly shows just how much the dynamics in Washington have changed since the Democrats won control of the House of Representatives in November’s mid-term elections. It should serve as a reminder to all that to govern effectively means making compromises, not playing politics.