Today marks the second missed paycheck for some 800,000 federal workers. Yet the headlines come up short: Senate rejects Republican plans to end the shutdown. Then the Senate rejects the Democratic plan for a short-term reopening of the government.
But that was expected. The very reason for the government shutdown is that the president, the Republicans in the Senate, and the Democrats in the House do not have enough votes to advance their plan. Only the votes to say no. Now the question is "what will it take to reach a deal?"
And behind the scenes there is a lot of movement. Two of the three parties, the House and the Senate, know it’s time to find a way to move on. That message was clearly sent to the White House Thursday. A compromise proposal is expected Friday and the Senate could vote again today or over the weekend.
The Hill reported GOP senator reading Vice President Mike Pence “the riot act” and one told him “the shutdown needs to come to an end, this is not a strategy that works [and] we never should have had a shutdown in the first place.” Pence replied that the president wants a deal. The Washington Post reported that senators also blamed Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky. The Post said it confirmed at least two heated exchanges between senators, including one where McConnell was blamed directly. "This is your fault," Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin said.
The president said if there were a reasonable deal he would take it. (And, he added, he has other options.) But so far all of the deals the White House are interested in making in lead to the same sentence, money to begin construction of a border wall. House Democrats have a different plan, offering to spend the same amount of money, $5.7 billion on everything else that’s border-related, more money for technology, border agents, immigration, the works. Except no wall.
On Twitter, at least, President Donald J. Trump said he will not cave and that Speaker Nancy Pelosi does not understand. But that’s only his Tweet face. The president is a collector of polls and that’s where his numbers are dropping fast. A survey of 14 polls by Real Clear Politics shows the president’s approval rate dropping by an average of 14.8 points, the latest damage reported by Fox News and Rasmussen Reports. Fox News found that only 16 percent supported the border wall as the country’s top priority. But Rasmussen shows that the president’s base remains solid with a 34 percent approval rate. And that might be enough to keep him going in this fight.
One group of voices missing from the border debate is tribal governments. The Tribal Border Summit continues today in Tucson. “Long before the United States’ borders existed, indigenous peoples moved freely from one place to another. Homes were built. Families put down roots. Cultural and religious sites were established,” said a news release from the conference. “Since then, America’s borders (southern, northern and Alaskan) have cut across Native lands, isolating the people from these important familial and cultural centers. With the debate over immigration front and center in our nation, tribes are once again caught in the middle — between U.S. border policy and access to important tribal lands outside of the country.”
The Tribal Border Summit is expected to draft a proposal today that calls for “unfettered access to tribal lands and culture.”
Back in Washington, at her weekly news conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she is willing to consider spending significant dollars on border security. “So we are very firm in our support on how we secure our borders,” she said. “Let's have that discussion after we opened up government and then let us get to work.”
Rep. Sharice Davids, D-Kansas, Ho Chunk, tweeted: “Though the Senate didn't pass any bills today, I'm encouraged that the chamber has held votes to end the #shutdown and I'm hopeful we can quickly move forward from here to get our country back to work.”
Rep. Debra Haaland, D-New Mexico, Laguna Pueblo, marched with colleagues to the Senate and served federal employees with other Democratic leaders in Chef Andres’ World Central Kitchen
On Thursday the White House carried a different message. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on CNBC that he did not understand why any federal worker would need a food bank because they could get loans. And the White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow called the shutdown “a glitch.” The Washington Post said these statements “underscored a tone-deafness that has appeared more pronounced in the Trump administration as the plight of 800,000 federal workers worsen.”
Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter - @TrahantReports
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