The national media are doing a disservice to the American people in the way they cover Donald Trump’s government shutdown. Some in the news media are promoting the false narrative that the government shutdown is about a partisan political struggle between Trump and House Democrats. That narrative is false.
The true narrative: Trump has taken several government agencies, 800,000 federal workers, tens of thousands of private workers and thousands of small businesses hostage as he demands Congress pay him a $5.7 billion ransom to build a wall on our southern border.
It’s as if a deranged man with a military assault rifle took several people hostage while demanding a large sum of money as a ransom. Then when the police arrive, instead of freeing the hostages, the police decide to help the deranged man hold the hostages till the ransom is paid. In this analogy, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell emerges as the chief policeman.
By my count, at least five Republican senators have already spoken out in support of reopening the government. Those five, added to the 45 Democrats and two independents, make a clear majority that would ensure passage of legislation to reopen the government. However, McConnell refuses to allow the Senate to vote to reopen the government. Why? He’s obviously doing so to protect Trump from the consequences of vetoing that legislation.
In short, only two people in America are now keeping our government from reopening: Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell. McConnell knows the House-passed legislation to reopen the government would easily pass the Senate if put to a vote. If vetoed, there’s probably a good chance both chambers would override this presidential veto.
In December, Trump threatened to shut down the government to get his $5.7 billion ransom. Then Trump gave in and agreed with Republicans to legislation that would keep the government running. After that legislation unanimously passed the Senate, and right-wing entertainers spoke out against it, Trump again changed his mind about it. Then cowardly House Speaker Paul Ryan refused to allow a House vote on the Senate bill to keep the government open.
The news media suggest House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer should negotiate with Trump and make a deal to reopen the government. (Chuck Schumer, as minority leader, is completely powerless and irrelevant in this matter, given that he doesn’t control the Senate.) In other words, they should negotiate with Trump over how much of a ransom to pay him.
But Trump already made a deal with the Republicans to keep the government open — he just went back on his word. How do you make a deal with someone who lies all of the time and cannot be trusted to keep his word? (Anyone want to talk about the repeated promise that Mexico would pay for this wall?)
Nancy Pelosi wisely chose to pass the very same Republican legislation that Trump and the congressional Republicans previously agreed to before the government shutdown. Beyond that, what else can she reasonably be expected to do?
The U.S. Constitution contains a clear procedure for negotiating and resolving issues such as this. The House passes an appropriation bill and sends it to the Senate. The Senate can either pass the bill and send it to the president, or the Senate can amend it and send it back to the House.
By tradition, if the House disagrees with Senate amendments, a conference committee of five members from each chamber is convened to work out the differences. Then the legislation is passed by both chambers and sent to the president.
Upon receiving a bill passed by Congress, the president can sign the bill, veto the bill or allow the bill to become law without his signature. If the president vetoes the bill, the House and Senate can override that veto by a two-thirds vote in each chamber.
This is the procedure established by the framers of the U.S. Constitution for negotiating differences such as this. This is how to negotiate an end to the current government shutdown.
The Constitution gives certain powers to the legislative branch of government and other powers to the executive branch. The power of the purse belongs solely to Congress. The power of the purse was sometimes used by the British Parliament to limit the actions of autocratic kings.
Donald Trump has no legitimate power to compel Congress to appropriate money for anything — let alone a 14th century white elephant wall. Nowhere in the Constitution does it give the president the power to extort appropriations from Congress by taking federal employees hostage. This is a gross abuse of executive power and yet another impeachable offense by Donald Trump.