Trump holds the line as the shutdown continues

Nancy Pelosi © Rex Features
Pelosi: refuses to budge on moral grounds

Fierce partisanship is making compromise difficult. Matthew Partridge reports.

The “first sign of progress” in the standoff between President Donald Trump and Congressional Democrats has appeared, reports Lauren Gambino in The Guardian. The row, over whether to fund Trump’s promised wall on the Mexican border, is now in its fifth week and has shut down many branches of government, leaving 800,000 federal workers without pay.

In a bid to end the 32-day stalemate, Democrats and Republicans have agreed to bring “duelling bills” to the Senate floor. The Democrats’ bill would fund the government until 8 February; the Republican bill would allocate $5.7bn in funding for the border wall in exchange for allowing illegal immigrants who came to the US when they’re young to remain permanently.

Is a real breakthrough likely?

Will this resolve the issue? Don’t hold your breath, says William Galston in The Wall Street Journal. The most that can be hoped for is that the bills “might catalyse serious negotiation after both fail, which seems likely”. The Republicans in the Senate are determined to pander “to the whims of the president”, while their Democratic counterparts insist “the government must reopen before immigration talks can begin”.

Compromise is made difficult by the fact the wall has become the symbol of everything the Democrats loathe most about the president (House speaker Nancy Pelosi calls the wall “immoral”); for their part, many Republicans have spent their entire careers opposing any immigration reform. The Republican proposal, drafted by Trump, is a “nonstarter” anyway because it is designed to be unacceptable to Democrats, says

Jim Newell on Slate. But it is just possible the Republicans might “cave” and allow a clean funding bill to pass. Even if they don’t, “we are starting to see this week what we hadn’t seen in the past month of the shutdown: movement”. It is significant the Senate Republicans requested Trump come up with some proposals and that some House Democrats have requested Pelosi should at least allow a vote on the wall. This suggests “pressure from anxious Senate Republicans and anxious House Democrats is starting to operate”.

Let the horse-trading begin

While the latest “Kabuki dance” contains “the seeds of a breakthrough”, it still requires both sides to “muster the spine to rebuff their own noisiest partisans and do some old-fashioned horse-trading”, says The Washington Post. One possible solution is to allocate funding for the wall in return for a broader amnesty than the one Trump is currently offering. The problem is that taking a hardline stance enables both sides to provide “red meat” for their “base”.

Trump has already indicated that, just as he made the wall “a focal point in… 2016 and 2018”, he will do so again for the presidential election in 2020, even though a majority of the population opposes it, says Alex Shephard in The New Republic. With the major Democratic candidates moving to the left on immigration, even if the current shutdown ends, we can expect “another potential impasse over funding the government”.

 

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