At the end of the day, February 15th, the chances are pretty good that Trump will deliver a Valentine to America in the form of another shutdown. Regardless of what Congress does during the next two weeks, Trump is not likely to get his wall, or at least not the wall he imagined and touted to his base. That will precipitate another Trump Tantrum. How many more shocks can America endure? How many more insults to our democracy will Congress accept?
Yesterday I posted on What Trump’s pointless shutdown will cost America. Today I follow up with a longer report on the costs of the shutdown, the strong possibility of another shutdown, the equally likely chance of Trump declaring a “national emergency” (after he torpedos a conference committee report), and the lessons that should have been learned from shutdown #1 (but probably weren’t). If you think I am being overly pessimistic, read on and judge for yourself.
More on what the shutdown cost America
Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports that Trump’s government shutdown gets a price tag (and it wasn’t cheap).
It’s not a secret that the longest government shutdown in American history hurt the country in a wide variety of ways. From the workers who couldn’t receive paychecks to the important government services that were halted, the nation paid a high price for Donald Trump’s failed tantrum.
But as federal operations get back into gear following a five-week halt, it’s also worth taking the question in a literal direction: how much did the president’s misguided endeavor cost us?
S&P Global Ratings published an assessment late last week, reporting that the U.S. economy lost at least $6 billion during the shutdown. This morning, the Congressional Budget Office put together a price tag of its own.
The federal government shutdown cost the economy $11 billion, according to a new analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, reflecting lost output from federal workers, delayed government spending and reduced demand.
The report, which was released Monday, estimated a hit of $3 billion, or 0.1 percent, to economic activity during the fourth quarter of 2018. The impact was greater during the first quarter of 2019: $8 billion, or 0.2 percent of GDP.
As CNBC’s report added, “Although most of the damage to the economy will be reversed as federal workers return to their jobs, the CBO estimated $3 billion in economic activity is permanently lost after a quarter of the government was closed for nearly 35 days.”
The CBO’s report specifically noted, “Among those who experienced the largest and most direct negative effects are federal workers who faced delayed compensation and private-sector entities that lost business. Some of those private-sector entities will never recoup that lost income.”
Trump sought nearly $6 billion for a medieval vanity project. It matters that he ended up with zero, but it matters just as much, if not more, that his misadventure has cost the nation roughly half of that total.
By any fair measure, $3 billion is one heck of an expensive tantrum.
Shutdown, Part 2
It’s not over ’til it’s over. Already the evidence points to a second shutdown in the works
“Hunter” of the Daily Kos Staff confirms that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney says Trump is willing to shut down the government again in three weeks. Hunter announces today’s Message of the Day: “All options for fouling our government remain on the table, if the pouting dotard does not get his way.”
Steve Benen reports more reasons from the White House: Trump prepared to shut down the government again
… let’s review the possible scenarios we’re likely to see unfold between now and Feb. 15.
The three-week spending bill is designed to give policymakers time to work on some kind of immigration compromise. Democrats believe they have a framework in place – including increased investments in ports-of-entry security, enhanced technology at the border, more Border Patrol agents and immigration judges, etc. – that could serve as the basis for a larger agreement. If Republicans insist on wall funding, however, that agreement will fail to materialize. [Scriber: Why the Republicans might hang tough on Trump’s wall is a topic raised later on.]
The process will unfold through something called a “conference committee,” featuring a group of 17 members selected by party leaders from both chambers’ appropriations committees, which will be tasked with finalizing a spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security. If/when they put together a package agreeable to all parties, they’ll present a “conference report” to be voted on in the House and Senate without amendments. If it passes, the bill would then go to the White House for a presidential signature.
There are several possibilities:
(1) Maybe lawmakers will work out an agreement, Trump will sign it, the drama will end, and the political world can turn its focus to some other fight.
(2) Maybe lawmakers will work out an agreement, Trump will be unimpressed, and he’ll shut down the government again.
(3) Maybe lawmakers will work out an agreement, Trump will be unimpressed, but he’ll sign it anyway and pursue a wall by way of a national-emergency declaration.
(4) Maybe lawmakers won’t work out an agreement and there will be a shutdown on Feb. 15.
(5) Maybe lawmakers won’t work out an agreement, but policymakers will agree to another stopgap spending measure to prevent the next shutdown.
We’ll learn soon enough which of these scenarios comes to fruition, but before the talks even get underway, Donald Trump is already undermining them, telling the Wall Street Journal yesterday that he expects he’ll oppose whatever Congress comes up with.
The president added that he sees another shutdown as “certainly an option.”
Option #3, declaring a bogus national emergency, is very possible. Benen explains in Why Trump insists his shutdown surrender wasn’t ‘a concession’
There’s no great mystery as to what Trump World is talking about.
In fact, it’s a little surprising this hasn’t already happened. For weeks, the president has talked up the idea of a “national emergency” declaration in which Trump would grant himself emergency powers, borrow the “power of the purse” from the legislative branch, redirect funds away from other departments, and use American tax dollars to build a border wall in defiance of Congress’ wishes.
Trump acted as if this gave him leverage: if lawmakers failed to pay his ransom, he’d use this option to go around them. By some accounts, as recently as Friday morning, the president was prepared to pull the trigger on the idea, though he was talked out of it.
Now, Trump hopes to use this as a pacifier for his base. “Sure, I broke my promise to you,” the president is effectively telling Limbaugh, Coulter, et al. “But I’ll make it up to you and declare a national emergency in mid-February. Wall construction will soon follow.”
Of course, approaching the issue in such a way becomes self-defeating. Either there’s an emergency or there isn’t. Not to put too fine a point on this, but there’s no such thing as a pre-arranged, carefully scheduled emergency – a detail the courts are likely to take note of.
Indeed, therein lies the point Trump doesn’t seem to fully appreciate. In his vision, Congress hasn’t given him a wall, so he’ll circumvent lawmakers by giving himself the power to do as he pleases. But that’s a whole lot less likely than he likes to pretend. Once Trump makes an emergency declaration, he’ll be sued, and while anything’s possible in a federal judiciary he and Senate Republicans have moved to the right, the consensus in many legal circles is that this is a case the White House is likely to lose.
The last several weeks reinforce the fact that even the president doesn’t perceive conditions on the border as an actual, proper emergency.
And even if Trump were to somehow prevail in the courts, the adjudication process would likely take so long that by the time he hits the campaign trail ahead of next year’s election, he still will not have delivered on his signature promise.
Mark Sumner (Daily Kos Staff) summarizes the evidence for another shutdown: Trump undercuts negotiations, sets stage for shutdown, part 2
After backing down and accepting the same deal that Democrats offered before he put the nation through a month-long shutdown that damaged the economy, shook faith in the ability of the government to provide basic services, fractured national security, and left hundreds of thousands of federal workers on the job without pay, Donald Trump was back over the weekend … to give up on negotiations. …
Trump set the odds of reaching any arrangement with Congress at “less than 50–50,” setting the stage for either a second act of shutdown or the declaration of the world’s slowest and least-justified “national emergency.” …
With the elections in 2018, Trump was faced, for the very first time, with the prospect of actually having to negotiate. What 2019 has demonstrated definitively is that ghostwriter Tony Schwartz wrote The Art of the Deal. Trump’s personal experience includes only cajoling, bullying, and cheating the rubes who have fueled both his failed real estate schemes and his fake “university.” Actually making a deal, especially with people who understand both the function of government and the system of legislation in infinitely more detail, is simply beyond him.
A bipartisan group of 17 legislators is now meeting, negotiating an actual deal. The goals of that group are going to be, even more than they would have been before the shutdown, finding a reasonable position and avoiding the damage of a repeat shutdown. And since Congress had worked out a compromise with broad support in both chambers before Trump threw a wrench in the nation’s gears, an agreement may not be hard to reach. But that agreement is very, very unlikely to be one that pleases Donald Trump.
The early rumble from the negotiations is that the legislation proposed might include additional funds for border security, but also include restrictions that would force that money to be used for security provisions, such as more technology at ports of entry, that might actually help, rather than construction of Trump’s ego-monument. Which would not.
The bipartisan panel will emerge from behind closed doors. And they will have a deal. Then Trump will be faced, again, with the prospect of throwing the nation into chaos simply because he did not get 100 percent of what he wanted. Because he won’t get 100 percent of what he wanted.
If Trump were a real negotiator, he would recognize that he is operating from a badly weakened position. He would recognize that, from that position, he should take what he can get, walk away, try to rebuild some semblance of support on Capitol Hill, and come back to fight another day. But the odds of that happening are way less than 50–50. Trump is the boy who always got the new toy he wanted, and the man whose greatest pleasure has come from putting his brand on things. His wall isn’t a policy. It’s filler material for the massive ego-shaped hole in his soul.
The shutdown lessons (not) learned
Benen reports on What the shutdown (hopefully) taught Republicans about Trump.
… consider some of what Trump’s GOP should understand now, even if they were unclear before the president’s surrender on Friday afternoon:
(1) Trump doesn’t know what he’s doing. No, really, he has no idea what he’s doing. The president stumbled into a government shutdown because he was afraid of upsetting some far-right media personalities, and in the weeks that followed, Trump demonstrated a total inability to think even one step ahead. He made painfully clear over the course of five weeks that he doesn’t know how to negotiate, he doesn’t know how to persuade, and he doesn’t bother to keep up on the most basic details on the policy dispute he initiated. Trump assured his allies he had “a plan.” He didn’t.
(2) The people whose advice Trump takes seriously also don’t know they’re doing. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a leader of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, said two days before the shutdown began that if the White House forced a crisis, Democrats would wilt under pressure and agree to a deal. He was wrong. On Friday morning, as Trump was caving, one senior Republican said, “I hope the president remembers this when the Freedom Caucus types tell him what to do next time. They only have a first move: start a fight. They never have a second move.”
(3) Trump is unconcerned about making his allies look foolish. The president assured congressional Republicans, conservative media, and allied activists that he wouldn’t back down. There was one way he’d end the shutdown, Trump said, and it was when Democrats agreed to meet his demands. On Thursday afternoon, Senate Republicans followed his lead, voting against a temporary spending measure to end the shutdown, insisting it needed to have wall funding. Literally one day later, the president retreated, leading those same GOP senators to approve the identical policy they’d rejected 24 hours earlier as unacceptable.
(4) Nancy Pelosi is vastly better at political leadership than Trump. In his first two years in the Oval Office, the president’s principal foe was his own ineptitude. Now, his principal foe is a skilled and experienced congressional leader, who effectively humiliated Trump as if he were a hapless amateur – which Pelosi proved him to be. As the dust settles, it’s the Speaker who emerges stronger and more popular, as Trump looks around erratically, wondering how he lost so spectacularly.
The week before the shutdown, the president met in the Oval Office with Democratic leaders, and told reporters, in apparent reference to Pelosi’s efforts to nail down the necessary votes to become Speaker, “I also know that, you know, Nancy’s in a situation where it’s not easy for her to talk right now.” Pelosi responded, “Please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting.” She warned him not to underestimate her. Trump should have listened.
(5) The laws of political physics have not been repealed. In some Republican circles, there’s a belief that Trump defies gravity. He can get away with ignoring polls and public attitudes. He can persevere where mere mortals may stumble. He can ignore the traditional pressures that normal politicians pay attention to. When others look to compromise or accept concessions, he digs in, commanding others to bend to his will. Even when it looks like he’s struggling, the argument goes, Trump will find a way to succeed, no matter the odds or the predictions of skeptics. More than anyone else in American public life, this man is a winner.
It was always a silly fairy tale, which has now been exposed as a sham. All Republicans have to do now is accept the truth that has been laid bare.
Trump would do well to ignore the wing-nut talk show pundits calling the plays from the bench. Even Fox News thinks so. Jen Hayden (Daily Kos Staff) observes how The Fox News knives come out for Ann Coulter after her disastrous order to shut down the government. “Even Brian Kilmeade [Fox & Friends] actually said that Donald Trump needs to learn how to ignore Brian Kilmeade, because even Brian Kilmeade has come to realize his advice is terrible.” Hayden cites two related tweets.
Brian Kilmeade on how Trump should move forward toward the border wall: “The president has gotta almost ignore people, whether it’s me or you one day, Ann Coulter today, and just do what he knows is best."
Newt Gingrich: President Trump “should not pay any attention to Ann Coulter. Ann Coulter’s never run for office, she doesn’t know anything about how you put a majority together. She’s off here in some fantasyland where she gets to be noisy which helps her sell books."
[Kilmeade] dings Ann Coulter as well, with good reason. She recently bragged that she advised Trump on immigration and encouraged him to go all-in for the wall. In short, Coulter ordered the code red to shut down the government.
[So] now Fox News is coming for Coulter. These snakes deserve each other.
In the other clip above, Newt Gingrich brings out the knives for Coulter, saying, “She’s off here in some fantasyland where she gets to be noisy, which helps her sell books.” Given that Gingrich is listed as the author of 45 different book titles, he knows a lot about conservative fantasyland and being noisy for the purpose of selling books.
To be clear, these folks are using Fox News to speak directly to Donald Trump, begging him to ignore their ideas and criticism. It’s pathetic, and it only further emphasizes how adrift Donald Trump is, with no values, morals, or ethics to guide him, only the plastic faces of Fox News. 2020 cannot get here soon enough.
Scriber thinks it’s really cool when GOPlins go after each other.