As the second anniversary of President Trump’s inauguration is marked the country is still suffering the effects of the longest government shutdown in US history. A shutdown that Donald Trump gleefully proclaimed to the cameras that he would totally own and be proud of. A shutdown over a border wall that the majority of Americans oppose, the vast majority of security experts say would be an ineffective waste of money, and a $5 billion price tag that wasn’t included in his own budget proposals.
Throughout the campaign and during the first two years of this administration Trump has repeatedly claimed hundreds of times that he would build a wall and that Mexico would pay for it. He stated over and over again it would be made of concrete slabs with reinforced steel and that Mexico would write a check to cover the entire cost.
He knew that was a con aimed at a percentage of his base who oppose and fear immigration from our southern neighbors. Just days into this administration during his first conversation with the President of Mexico President Trump was recorded pleading with the Mexican President to just say they would pay for it, even it not true, because he needed those words for pure political reasons. As awful as his crass political tactics of fear and division are, most people-including Republican leadership-knew it was a con and would never happen.
The President took the operations of the United States government hostage for his wall. His actions put this country at real risk, caused serious economic harm to hundreds or thousands of workers both inside and outside of the federal government, left our allies uncertain, our enemies joyous, and our institutions damaged.
Let us get some facts about the Trump and Republican shutdown clear. During the last 115th Congress an appropriations bill was passed by the Republican controlled US House, unanimously passed by the Republican controlled US Senate. The White House and President had told Republican Congressional leaders that he would sign the appropriations bill as passed by Congress. The bill contained $1.6 billion for border security. A tiny handful of far right wing talking heads went on a rampage attacking Trump over no wall. The President then reneged on his word and shutdown the government.
The 116th Congress with a Democratic controlled US House passed the same Republican appropriations bill. The Republican controlled US Senate refused to hold a vote on the same bill they had unanimously passed just two weeks before.
The US House has passed a series of bipartisan appropriation bills aimed at opening the federal government. The Republican majority of the US Senate had refused to hold a vote on any of these measures. Democratic leaders of the US House and a bipartisan group of Congressional members are doing their job. It is the Republican US Senate and the Republican White House that refused to act.
Democratic, Republican, and members of the administration met in negotiations. Vice President Pence and acting Chief of Staff Mulvaney proposed a compromise of about $2.5 billion. President Trump undercut them and reneged on their offer. Trump simply did not negotiate in good faith.
Democratic lawmakers support smart, effective, economically sound, and actual border security. There was legislation in 2017 providing for $25 billion is border security funding that was negotiated in good faith with comprehensive immigration reform as part of of that legislation. Trump has repeatedly stated he would support that legislation. When faced with criticism from the far right Freedom Caucus and other far right anti immigration fringe voices he and the Republican leadership reneged on supporting and advancing that legislation into law.
Hundreds of thousands of workers were expected to show up to work while not getting paid, hundreds of thousands more were on furlough not getting paid, businesses that provide services and goods to these workers and their families suffered severe economic losses, hundreds of thousands of working Americans and poor Americans were in threat of not receiving or did not receive the services and benefits that they need just to get by.
President Trump’s petulant shutdown down cost the American economy $11 billion, $3 billion of which will never be regained.
Airport security, air traffic control, federal law enforcement, immigration enforcement, the court system, veterans services, food safety, education services, and senior services were being held hostage. The men and women who serve in the United States Coast Guard did not receive their paychecks. The first time in the history of the country that members of a branch of Armed Services did get get paid for their service to the nation. All held hostage for a wall that President Trump said that Mexico would pay for.
The wall can continued to be debated. First the government needed to be reopened.
After airports were partially shut down, air travel became increasingly unsafe, and Trump’s poll numbers plummeted he caved.
This is not about a wall. The wall is really about Donald Trump’s ego and desire to have a monument built for him.
The United States of America is not about walls. We are about bridges. America is about welcoming people with wide arms, an expanded embrace, and not clenched fists.