Yes, The Agreement Is An Example Of True Bipartisanship. But It Also Helps That Neither Side Wanted To Give Trump Much Of Anything…
Why Democratic and Republican negotiators in the House and Senate make the compromises they did?
- It was the right thing to do.
- They had to.
- It didn’t leave anybody (except Trump and some of his cronies) too disappointed.
Let’s look at the stakes for the bipartisan conference committee in getting this deal hammered out, because we think people are vastly underestimating how much damage could’ve been done to Congress as a whole had they not. We think there’s a good chance this would’ve become a milestone moment in the Trump Presidency, and not a good one:
- Aside from sagging poll numbers and increasing fury among federal workers (who, among other things, had the ability to shut down airports), lawmakers said they were confident they could reach an agreement if Trump just ended the shutdown an gave them a couple of weeks. He did.
- If those lawmakers had not come up with an agreement, the President could’ve said: “I let Congress try to do its job. They couldn’t. So now we’re going to do it my way. And also in the future about many other things, because it’s the only way these days of getting anything done.”
And even though that would’ve been a giant and perhaps irreversible step toward authoritarianism, even we really wouldn’t have been able to argue with it. But the Congressional negotiators stepped up and did their job. Now the President can, and is saying he’s not happy with the compromise Congress delivered. But that’s because he seems to think Congress doing its job means giving him whatever he wants.
Just watch this kind of remarkable segment with the President at a Cabinet meeting yesterday. We cut a big chunk for you, because the President goes to great lengths to try to wriggle around and through the deal, hemming and hawing, both saying he’s “not thrilled” with it, and it’s workable, that it doesn’t give him enough money, but he has the money anyway, and especially that he doesn’t want a shutdown. Now, people could get in his ear over the next couple of days and talk him out of signing. But what we’re hearing is that he probably will sign, and then maybe attempt to reappropriate funds from other projects to give him more wall.
According to CNN’s Lauren Fox, even Freedom Caucus head Mark Meadows, who was one of the people who talked Trump out of signing a deal he said he was going to sign and then didn’t in December, said: “I think he will sign it…I think he’ll do so reluctantly“. Reluctantly or not, signing is signing.
And political leaders on both sides are working very hard to rally the votes to get it onto the President’s desk, while each side also tries to claim victory for their own party. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell via Bloomberg: “[The President] got a pretty good deal here.”
Sure, he’ll grouse for a while and alternately Tweet condemnations of Democrats, with praise for himself on how the deal is really a “win” for him. (In fact, since we wrote this, he’s already done that.)
Democrats did have the upper hand in the negotiation, as blame for the recent shutdown landed squarely on Trump’s shoulders, but that could’ve changed quickly if they couldn’t cut a deal. Republicans also stood to lose by talking as if they were truly committed to a bipartisan process and demonstrating these kinds of things can still happen even in these days of unprecedented political divide, only to ultimately see their efforts flop.
So failure to reach consensus would’ve spelled disaster for both political parties. And more importantly, it would’ve weakened the power of Congress as a whole, while enhancing the President’s power–both real and perceived–in new and perilous ways. Even if Trump ultimately doesn’t sign what they just came up with, putting something in front of him roughly on schedule was vitally important. Because now—barring unexpected roadblocks in Congress—it’ll be in the President’s lap, and fully his responsibility if he chooses not to sign it. And any unilateral action he may choose to take to “enhance” the deal and make it more to his liking will be squarely in his lap too.
So the conference committee’s deal is important not only because they figured something out on border security. The path of politics in this country might very well have been hanging in the balance.