Opinion | Democrats New Deal is Checkmate for Trump

A progress update on the longest U.S. government shutdown in history and a perspective on the new Democratic deal for ending it.

In the wake of the longest U.S. government shutdown in history (see: here for a rundown) President Trump proposed what he called a “compromise” to the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives on January 21, 2019. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi deemed the deal a “non-starter” on the very same day.

The crux of Trump’s deal revolved around extending protections and privileges for the Dreamers and TPS (Temporary Protection Status) holders for a further three years in exchange for $5.7 billion in the appropriations bill for funding a border wall. This wall was a main campaign promise in Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy race.

Nancy Pelosi was quick to point out the fact that the Dreamers and TPS holders are only now unprotected due to Trump’s efforts to rescind The DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) policy. Therefore, the deal Trump proposes actually doesn’t offer the Democrats anything and Trump gets everything he wants. And in three years time the Dreamers and TPS holders may still be deported. The deal is a dud.

Senator Charles Schumer called the deal, “Neither reasonable, nor a compromise”. The New York Senator went on to state that the deal was a “Thinly veiled attempt by the President to save face”. Furthermore, Schumer likened the deal to “Bargaining for stolen goods”.

On January 23, House Democrats released details of a deal they are currently drafting into a formal letter to the President. Within this deal, the Democrats will be offering to raise spending for higher border security but explicitly state that they will not fund a physical wall. Part of this increased border security would entail more border patrol agents, retrofitting border ports of entry, more immigration judges, new sensors and drones, and additional technology.

If his $5.7 billion is about border security, then we see ourselves fulfilling that request, only doing it through what I like to call a ‘smart wall’

House Majority Whip James Clyburn

The House advised that the deal will propose expenditure higher than that of which they have previously supported for border security ($1.3 billion to $1.6 billion). Some Democrats have even stated that they would agree to the full $5.7 billion as long as it did not fund a physical wall.

It seems that the Democrats have been rather smart about their proposal. This allows the Democrats to maintain their position and not fund a physical border wall, which many have called the “least effective” defensive measure, and given Trump a way to receive up to the full $5.7 billion for border security. What’s more, this will end this agonising government shutdown and remove pressure off of Trump. It seems like a win-win. If this really is about border security and not just about the wall and Trump’s notorious ego.

Trump is now trapped in a delicate position. If he accepts the Democratic deal then he will be conceding to the House and not getting what he truly wants. A devastating concept to an aspiring-autocrat like Trump. And the government shutdown, something which Trump is trying to blame on the Democrats, will be seen to have been ended by the Democrats. Another sure blow to Trump’s perceived absolute power.

On the other hand, if Trump refuses this deal, which could see him receive his full funding for border security, then it will become apparent to the citizens that this is more about his ego and fuel for his 2020 re-election campaign, than it is about actual border security and helping end the government shutdown. Something which has caused 800,000 working U.S. citizens to go unpaid and forced many to pawn precious items and use food banks just to survive.

Although the Democratic deal would be a win-win for both sides, either way Trump loses something very precious to him: respect. Either he bows to the Democratic deal, damaging his ego and his standing with his voters, or he continues the suffering being caused by the government shutdown and the blame will squarely fall on his shoulders for it; also damaging his standing with his voters.

Checkmate.

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