President TrumpDonald John TrumpLanny Davis: Trump views Cohen as ‘greatest threat to his presidency’ House Oversight chairman accuses Trump of making ‘a lot of money’ off presidency Trump references ‘Wounded Knee’ in tweet mocking Warren MORE has put the funding of “the wall” at the core of his administration’s purpose.
In essence he proclaims, “No wall, no government” — or at least none of the 25 percent of the government that is still without an appropriation from Congress.
He also announced with great bravado last month that would be “proud” to take responsibility for the shutdown.
Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D’Alesandro PelosiTrump’s disapproval rating higher since shutdown began: poll Dem senator: Border wall itself is not ‘immoral’ Trump, Pelosi needn’t be friends to find common ground MORE (D-Calif.) has mockingly offered Trump a single dollar toward the construction cost of his wall — which turned out to be a dollar more than Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerScalise: Trump wants Congress to solve shutdown problem Both sides must compromise to end the longest shutdown in our history Listening metaphorically: How Mexico will pay for the wall MORE (D-N.Y.) was willing to put up.
The Democratic leadership position is that the wall has no purpose, and thus the government should remain shut down in order that they may stand with their people against the president’s initiative.
To quote the old Laurel & Hardy catchphrase, “What a fine mess you’ve gotten us into.”
The irony, of course, is that construction of the wall along the southern border has been going on for years, funded under bipartisan appropriation bills. It began in earnest with the San Diego section that was undertaken more than 20 years ago and continued right up to the last congressional funding cycle.
Further, it should be noted that the sum in dispute is approximately $5 billion. This is a lot of money, of course. But in the context of overall annual federal spending — $4.4 trillion dollars — it represents what many in Congress view as a rounding error.
This clash is not really about the wall or its cost.
It is about Trump’s base on the right, and the base of Pelosi and Schumer on the left, wanting to destroy the political viability of each other.
Americans who are not base voters — that is, the vast majority of folks in this country — find the entire event unfathomable.
Most people are just trying to get through their day, do their job, take care of their families and make their communities good places to live.
They expect their government, and the people whom they have empowered with the responsibility of governing, to also do their jobs.
But they are not.
After the president last week used his first Oval Office address to double down on his position, there is now a real question of how the rest of the nation gets past this.
How do we get the congressional Democratic leadership and the president to actually consider factors other than themselves, their egos and their intolerant base constituencies?
The answer lies, as it often does, with the people — those of us outside of the Beltway and beyond the shouts of Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity.
The way to get lawmakers to act is simply to overwhelm them with communications from everyday Americans, arguing that the status quo is not acceptable and their inaction is not tolerable.
When there have been government shutdowns in the past, they have affected the majority of the government.
Consequently, such shutdowns threatened critical needs of Americans, such as the imperative for Social Security recipients to get their checks.
This time, because so much of the government keeps running, the shutdown’s impact has been muted. Many people are not yet feeling the effect of the shutdown and thus are not communicating the importance of ending it to their members of Congress.
Rather, the loudest voices on both the right and left want the malfeasance of the shutdown to continue.
The benign response by the majority of Americans will end when a critical service of the federal government is totally disrupted.
Many federal workers have been deemed essential and are being required to work without pay.
This is truly unfair.
These folks have families to support and expenses to pay.
It is a disgrace that both the president and the Democratic leadership are so cavalier about the untenable position of these conscientious federal employees.
The members of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which deals with security at our airports, are among the groups that have been told to bear the brunt of the personal costs of the shutdown.
They are working but they are not being paid. Of course, whenever this should end, one would expect there to be backpay. But that doesn’t help allay the daily costs these employees confront right now.
It is reasonable to anticipate that the TSA process will slowly churn down — maybe even come to a halt at some airports — as the burden of working without compensation becomes more and more difficult to justify.
On Friday, Miami International Airport announced that one of its six terminals would close early for three days in response to the number of TSA employees calling in sick.
If this were to happen on a wider basis — if getting through airport security begins to take hours or is deemed virtually impossible for the average traveler — Americans would be rightly outraged. They would inevitability express their dissent to those who are responsible: their members of Congress.
Members of Congress and even presidents tend to respond when there is a general uprising amongst their constituents, brought on by a legitimate concern about the government’s failure to operate in an efficient or orderly fashion.
This is the course that ends this shutdown.
It occurs when vast numbers of Americans tell their leaders enough is enough: Stop dancing to the tune of the extremists in your parties and start governing for the betterment of all of us.
The catalyst for this ending could easily be some government function that affects almost all of us, such as security at airports, going haywire.
If that occurs, a solution will surely be found.
Judd Gregg (R) is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee.