President Donald Trump tried to cast himself as victorious last Friday when he announced the end to the government shutdown. But in fact, he backed himself into a corner — it will be difficult for him to come up with a solution to the dilemma he has created over border security that both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and his far-right base will find mutually agreeable.
Perhaps a Trump/Pelosi compromise could look something like this: billions of dollars’ worth of additional border protection (from drones and surveillance technology to hiring more U.S. Border Patrol agents) could be funded, and Pelosi could agree to some type of fence reinforcement that Trump would loosely define as a “wall.” But Pelosi has made it clear that she has no desire to fund the Trumpista fantasy of a continuous concrete wall that would stretch all the way from Southern California to East Texas.
Here are three groups that Trump will have to do a lot of negotiating with between now and Feb. 15 — and finding a solution that will please Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and far-right author/columnist Ann Coulter all at once will be difficult, if not impossible.
1. Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic House of Representatives
For the first two years of his presidency, Trump had a sympathetic Republican-controlled House of Representatives under the leadership of former House Speaker Paul Ryan. But Democrats enjoyed a net gain of 40 seats in the 2018 midterms, and the House that was seated on January 3 is hardly pro-Trump. Pelosi has made it clear that while national security and border safety are priorities for her, there are much better ways to achieve those things than Trump’s wall. Throughout the shutdown, Pelosi didn’t budge a bit on the wall; she remains adamantly opposed to it. And while Pelosi might very well agree to other security-related measures — greater funding for the U.S. Border Patrol, hiring more agents, a greater investment in surveillance technology — she has no interest in the construction of Medieval concrete wall.
2. Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans
As much of a far-right ideologue as McConnell is, he didn’t want to see the federal government partially shut down. Back in December, McConnell signed off on a spending bill that would have kept the government open for the time being — and it looked like Trump was going to go along with it. But when Coulter, AM talk radio buffoon Rush Limbaugh and Fox News’ Laura Ingraham angrily accused Trump of betraying his base, the president shut down the government for five weeks. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews found it ridiculous that Trump was shutting down the government because of extremists who represent only about 10% of the U.S. population, and he’s right.
During the shutdown, McConnell refused to criticize Trump publicly and maintained that Democrats were to blame. Regardless, he wanted the shutdown to end — and after five weeks of FBI, U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Coast Guard and Transportation Security Agency (TSA) employees going unpaid, a short-term Pelosi/McConnell/Trump agreement reopened the government. The last thing McConnell wants is for the federal government to be partially shut down again in mid-February.
3. Ann Coulter and Trump’s far-right base
After learning that Trump, Pelosi and McConnell had reached an agreement that would reopen the federal government for three weeks, Ann Coulter lashed out at the president on Twitter — declaring, “Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: as of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as president of the United States.” Coulter still hates Bush 41 for stressing “Read my lips: no new taxes” during his 1988 presidential campaign only to raise taxes as president, and as she sees it, reopening the government without funding for a border wall is an even greater betrayal of the Republican base. When she appeared on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher, Coulter complained that Trump “promised something for 18 months, and he lied about it.”
Trump responded to Coulter’s angry tweets during an interview the Wall Street Journal published on January 27, saying, “I hear she’s become very hostile. Maybe I didn’t return her phone call or something.”
Most Democratic politicians, of course, couldn’t care less what Coulter thinks; that isn’t who they are trying to reach. But Coulter is a major star on the far right, and Trump’s base reads her books and articles religiously — regardless of how ridiculous she can be.