(POLITICO) – This week, the third shutdown of the federal government in 2018 became the first government shutdown of 2019. For more than two weeks now, a partial shutdown has dragged on following President Donald Trump’s refusal to sign a spending bill passed by both a majority in the lame-duck Republican House and unanimously in the GOP-held Senate.
The reason for Trump’s intransigence is simple: He wants any spending bill to include $5 billion to pay for a wall on the Mexico-U.S. border—the central policy goal of his 2016 campaign and which he consistently promised that Mexico would pay for.
Congressional approval of a border wall seemed unlikely even when Trump’s fellow Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress. Now that a new Congress has been sworn in and the House is firmly in Democratic hands—and with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowing not to authorize a single dime for the construction of a border wall—a resolution to the impasse seems, at the moment, unimaginable. Or is it?
We asked 11 top political strategists, pundits and observers from across the political spectrum how they think the shutdown will end. Here’s what they had to say.
‘It will end with Trump declaring victory … regardless of the actual outcome’
Anita Dunn is managing director at SKDKnickerbocker, was a senior adviser to President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign and served as White House communications director in 2009.
It is likely that the shutdown will end before the State of the Union (tentatively scheduled for Jan. 29) and it will end with President Trump declaring victory and progress on getting the wall built, regardless of the actual outcome.
Trump will propose ‘a fix for DACA recipients in exchange for at least half of the $5 billion dollars in funding for the border wall’
Alfonso Aguilar is president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles
Because the shutdown is partial, it seems that both sides are not in a hurry or feel as much pressure to reach a deal. Both will take time to score points with their base. The shutdown will, therefore, continue easily for another 10 days. By next week, however, the White House and congressional Democrats will begin serious negotiations that will lead to an agreement that allows both of them to save face and claim some sort of victory.
President Trump will take the first step and propose—to the chagrin of his nativist immigration aide Stephen Miller—a fix for DACA recipients in exchange for at least half of the $5 billion dollars in funding for the border wall he has requested. This will turn the table on Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. If they insist on not including any money for the wall when the president is showing flexibility and willing to negotiate, they will come across as intransigent and only interested in playing politics with the immigration issue. After some initial pushback, they will accept the deal but will demand—and Republicans will accept—that the final legislative language not include the term “wall” but alternative terminology such as “strategic fencing,” which in practical and policy terms means exactly the same. The shutdown will end around Jan. 12.
‘The government will open very quickly’ if Dems offer future chances for a border wall
Paul Winfree is director of the Heritage Foundation’s Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies and former White House budget policy director for President Trump.
Thus far, congressional Democrats seem to be offering only paths that would roll back the administration’s policies while eliminating current and future opportunities to deliver on border security. That’s not exactly a strategy for progress if the goal is to open the government.
I suspect that the government will open very quickly once Democrats offer Trump the ability to make progress on the border infrastructure while creating future opportunities for evaluation and debate by limiting the amount of money available for construction relative to the president’s request.
‘Amid plummeting approval ratings,’ Trump will be forced to sign a compromise without a wall
Neera Tanden is president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi—who, unlike her predecessor, Paul Ryan, is capable of governing—will pass legislation in the House which mirrors the bill that the Senate has already unanimously approved. Eventually, senators who supported this same package just two weeks ago—particularly Republicans facing reelection in 2020, such as Cory Gardner, Susan Collins, Joni Ernst and Thom Tillis—will recognize that refusing to reenact the House’s resolution will constitute their first flip-flop of the upcoming campaign cycle.
Once the Senate decides to abide by the terms of its previous agreement, President Trump will be forced to sign this legislation amid plummeting approval ratings. He will then issue a rambling and fraudulent tweet boasting that the new spending bill funds his border wall. Sadly, this is a lie that his base is likely to believe.
‘It should end with a grand compromise’: The Dream Act, plus a border barrier
Frank Luntz is a pollster and communications strategist who has worked for a wide array of clients in the business and Republican political world.
I don’t know how it will end, but I do know how it should end: with a grand compromise that includes the Dream Act for Democrats and funding for border security and a barrier or the Republicans. Everyone can get what they care about most, and the public can once again get a government that functions. If we focus on delivering for our constituents rather than beating the opposition, we can achieve so much.
‘It won’t be a physical wall, but the language will be written in a way that Trump can claim “I got my wall”’
Michael Steele is the former chairman of the Republican National Committee.
President Trump and Speaker Pelosi have entered the Shutdown Ring, circling each other like prize fighters looking for each other’s weakness to exploit with one quick and stunning blow. Unfortunately, the only people getting punched are the more than 800,000 federal workers who aren’t getting paid.
Given Trump and Pelosi’s posturing, don’t expect a quick end to the madness: Speaker Pelosi has absolutely no incentive to give the president $5 billion for a wall, and the president has every incentive to blame the Democrats for the shutdown. I suspect that by Jan. 29, the tentative date of the State of the Union speech, something close to $2 billion will be appropriated for “border security.” It won’t be a physical wall, but the language will be written in a way that Trump can claim “I got my wall”—remember, he’s down to slats at this point.
‘This shutdown will end with Trump capitulating on the wall’
Rick Wilson is a Republican political strategist and the author of Everything Trump Touches Dies.
This shutdown will end with Trump capitulating on the wall. The White House hasn’t felt any of the pain and chaos from it yet, and the pressures that come with 800,000 federal employees sitting home without pay will rise and rise. Trump’s disregard for federal workers is one thing; the damage will ramify across the economy and the political sphere as this game drags out.
The only hope the White House has right now is that Schumer blinks, though it looks like the Democrats have the political will to hold the line. They’d be fools not to; this is a massive, singular issue on which Trump bet 100 percent of his credibility. He put his head on the chopping block and handed Pelosi the ax.
‘Uncertainty will continue until Senate Republicans wake up and find their groove’
Donna Brazile is the former chair of the Democratic National Committee and managed Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign.
The newly elected Democratic majority in the House of Representatives will take the lead by offering proposals that would normally get us back to the negotiating table—Trump enjoys playing by his own set of rules. Uncertainty will continue until Senate Republicans wake up and find their groove to lead with or without the president.
Especially as the economy falters, the president needs some street cred with his base, and he might try to find it in badgering Democrats. The challenge for him is that in trying to get Congress to pay for his border wall, he risks highlighting the fact he was unable to make good on his single biggest campaign promise from 2016: that he would build a wall, and Mexico would pay for it. The longer this shutdown drags on, the bigger the risk for Trump. Of course, he could come clean by telling the American people that he needs taxpayers to foot the bill for the wall—perhaps he’ll get more by telling us the truth than forcing innocent public servants to play his foolish game of chicken—but I doubt he’ll do that.
‘There must be fencing the Obama folks created that can be extended or renewed at a modest increase in spending’
David Gergen is the director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School, and a former White House adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton.
The only certainty about the shutdown is that it will end. Democrats are holding the high cards at the moment—and Nancy Pelosi is playing a more skillful game than Donald Trump—but the longer the impasse, the more the public will blame both parties.
Each side, then, needs to find a quiet way stop this craziness soon—and in truth, it shouldn’t be that hard. There must be fencing the Obama folks created that can be extended or renewed at a modest increase in spending. Dems can then claim they are beefing up security just like Obama; Trump in turn can claim that barriers are longer and even higher than in the past. On both sides, there are already hints that they could also agree to a compromise on spending levels.
How might they best get to an agreement? What about each side designating three negotiators and passing a continuing resolution giving them two weeks to finish, letting federal workers return to their jobs immediately and promise to protect their back pay. It shouldn’t even take two weeks to get it done. One thing is for sure: the public is sick of political stunts—our leaders in Washington are bound to see that, get this one behind us and move on.
‘Who will cave: Pelosi or Trump?’
Sophia A. Nelson is a former Republican counsel for the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, and author of the book, E Pluribus One: Reclaiming our Founders’ Vision for a United America.
Given President Trump’s bizarre appearance in the White House Briefing Room on Thursday afternoon, I think we are in for a rough road and a long standoff. If Trump’s press conference is any indication, he will stand his ground on the border wall and hold out for money for his wall. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a smart and savvy leader, has vowed not to give any funding for a wall, and knows that she cannot allow the Democrats to get the blame for this shutdown. Who will cave: Pelosi or Trump? My money is that Pelosi comes out the winner, as Republicans in Congress lose patience as Trump drifts further and further away from the simple reality that most Americans care more about their personal financial security than about a border wall.
The shutdown ‘will end when Fox News tells Trump to end it’
Adam Jentleson is public affairs director at Democracy Forward, a former senior adviser at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and was a top aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
This feels different than past shutdowns. There is no obvious endgame and Trump is firmly ensconced in a Fox News bubble, unresponsive to rational inputs. It will end when Fox News tells him to end it—that’s the most I’m confident predicting.