A second federal shutdown may arrive within days, unless Congress and President Donald Trump can move quickly on a tentative agreement that emerged from bipartisan negotiations on Monday.
The deal won’t completely satisfy anyone — the hallmark of genuine compromise — but it would give each side a little something. Democrats, despite saying they would never fund a wall, would agree to roughly $1.4 billion for new barriers in specific areas. That’s short of the $5.7 billion Trump sought, but it is a major concession for Democrats and gives Trump the ability to say — truthfully this time — that his wall is underway.
The wall, by the way, has taken on mythic, even absurd proportions. In reality, the U.S. already has hundreds of miles of physical barriers — fences and walls — along its Southern border where deemed necessary. Trump’s promise as a candidate to build a solid concrete wall across the entire border was never going to happen. What’s left is simply a decision as to where, along gaps in the border, a fence or wall makes more sense than other means of security. That is not, and never should have become, some epic ideological battle.
If those barriers, once erected, are deemed insufficient, well, the federal government produces a budget every year. Come back next year and make the case for more.
Similarly, Republicans at the table Monday agreed in principle to additional humanitarian aid, to improve conditions that have become intentionally cruel for migrants under this president — part of his plan to deter illegal immigration by making an example of those detained. We should add here that some of that funding must be used to reunite children forcibly separated from parents and kept in detention camps. Nothing will erase the horrors inflicted on them, but it is simply unacceptable for this administration not to restore these children to their families.
Democrats also yielded on their proposal to cap the number of detainee beds ICE wanted for additional detainees. The aim was not, as posited by the president, an attempt to let violent or criminal migrants go free. The goal was to force the administration into prioritizing such migrants, not flooding the system with the search-and-grab raids that rounded up those who had lived here for years, holding down jobs and paying taxes. Detention, like prison, is an expensive proposition and should be reserved for those whose continued presence poses an actual threat. But that is not enough to risk another injurious shutdown, and Democrats were right to concede for the moment.
Congressional Republicans too should be commended for a sensible compromise that acknowledges political reality. Despite Trump’s El Paso rally, at which he again fomented division and stoked anger, congressional Republicans appear to be drawing a line against the disastrous route that led to the nation’s longest government shutdown. That is a relief for both the hundreds of thousands of government workers and contractors who bore the brunt of those actions, as well as those who rely on the services they provide. A second shutdown, among other things, would come just as tax season is ramping up for an IRS that is just barely recovered from the last one.
It’s time to end this charade over a nonexistent emergency at the border. Congressional lawmakers have done their job and come to an agreement. The president on Tuesday professed himself “not happy” with the deal. He would be wise to say yes anyway. Otherwise, a Congress determined to keep government open and avoid further political damage may — and should — at long last signal their independence and override him.