HIGH NOON

A spat with Pelosi and Schumer shows Trump has no chance of getting a border wall

“You don’t have the votes,” Pelosi tells Trump.
“You don’t have the votes,” Pelosi tells Trump.
Image: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
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Donald Trump is threatening once again to shut down the US government if he doesn’t get funding for his border wall between the US and Mexico. An animated spat with presumed incoming speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority leader Charles Schumer at the White House this morning (Dec. 11.), shows how unlikely he is to get what he wants.

Pelosi and Schumer openly derided him in some of the most aggressive public criticism Trump has experienced as president. “You don’t have the votes,” for the wall in the House, Pelosi explained to Trump. The US government essentially runs out of money on Dec. 21, unless Congress and the White House approve a new spending bill. Schumer implied Trump was acting like a child throwing a tantrum.

The high-drama exchange is an indication of the opposition Trump faces as the Democrats take over the House of Representatives in January with a 235-199 majority. It’s also a reminder that Trump threw away his best chance to get funding for a border wall by effectively killing a bipartisan bill earlier this year.

On February 14, a group of 16 senators, including Republicans Susan Collins from Maine and Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine, unveiled a new bill that assigned $25 billion in funding for border security, including physical barriers and fencing, as well as a path to citizenship for the Dreamers, the 1.8 million immigrants brought to the US as children without documentation.

The deal was a compromise between Republicans and Democrats that could have broken the deadlock over the issue in Congress. It would “represent the most significant change to immigration law in the past thirty-five years,” said South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, one of the bill’s sponsors.

Late that evening, however, the Department of Homeland Security put out an unusually political, aggressively worded, and often misleading statement that ripped into the plan, calling it a “mass amnesty for over 10 million illegal aliens, including criminals.” Trump weighed in as well:

Graham criticized the DHS for acting like a political entity, not a government agency, “Who the hell wrote this,” he said, calling the statement “poisonous.”

After the statement dropped, Republicans and Democrats in pro-Trump states peeled away, apparently afraid that voting for a bill the president opposed would hurt them in the 2018 midterms. It failed to get the 60 Senate votes it needed in a Feb. 15 vote, winning just 54; a hardline Trump-backed alternative was even less popular, with just 39.

In March, a visibly upset Trump was forced to sign a spending bill to keep the government open that only included a tiny fraction of the $25 billion he sought for a border wall. “I will never sign another bill like this again,” Trump threatened at the time.

The Republicans who control the Senate have effectively washed their hands of the immigration issue since. In January, they’ll control it by an even larger 53-47 margin, but even then, passing an immigration bill that Trump wants isn’t going to be easy—many of the newest Democrats in the House were voted in on pledges to humanize the US immigration system.

Meanwhile, most Americans don’t believe the US should be paying billions for a border wall, and favor a path towards citizenship for Dreamers.