On Twitter, President Donald Trump was his usual, incredulous self:
You don’t typically send a tweet like that when you have a lot of legislative accomplishments to brag about. The 100-day mark is approaching this week, and the Trump administration has very little success to show.
The travel ban temporarily restricting immigration from six Muslim-majority countries? That’s been nothing but an eyesore for the White House and a constant source of frustration for nationalists in the administration, bottled up in the court system and for all intents and purposes dead pending appeal. The repeal and replacement of Obamacare? Republican disunity tanked that one in humiliating and public fashion. Tax reform? That hasn’t even started yet. A successful conclusion of the Russia hacking inquiry? We’re a long way off.
What about keeping the federal government open for the rest of the fiscal year? Even something as routine as this might end up being beyond the administration’s grasp. As long as Budget Director Mick Mulvaney insists on including a down payment for Trump’s border wall in the spending bill – a project that 58 percent of Americans don’t believe is a smart use of taxpayer money and a campaign promise that GOP lawmakers in border states don’t view as particularly urgent – the chances of a budget deal are low and sinking.
If Trump’s popularity is hurting now, imagine how bad it will be if he ends his first 100 days with a government shutdown.
No one is saying that President Trump shouldn’t press for his priorities. When Mulvaney says that “elections have consequences” and the president deserves to have some of his big projects funded, he’s right on the mark. Yet there is a time and a place for everything, and right now it’s not advisable to hold $1 trillion dollars of discretionary spending hostage in order to receive $1.5 billion for a wall that nobody outside of Trump’s base is enthused about. The legislative strategy that the administration is adopting is in a way similar to the GOP’s defunding strategy in 2013: either the other side agrees to do what you want, or the government ceases to function. It was a bad strategy for Republicans then and its a bad strategy for President Trump now.
The bottom line is that Democrats will never sign off on the construction of a southern border wall that they have repeatedly campaigned against and portrayed as the 21st-century equivalent of the Berlin Wall. To think otherwise is delusional.
Trump has more than three and a half years to go before his first term ends. There are plenty of opportunities for him to advocate for border wall funding if that is in fact what he still wants to do. Including it in a spending bill that is required to keep the lights on, however, isn’t the right way to go.
There was once a time when policies were debated separately on the House or Senate floor, authorized, and then appropriated. Horse trading would ensue and a legislative compromise would be struck that was sweet enough for both parties to swallow. It’s called regular order, and it’s exactly the path that the White House should follow.
Trump’s first 100 days already look unproductive. He shouldn’t make matters even worse by fighting a losing battle in an attempt to meet a campaign promise that has split the Republican Party.