In issuing his threat to shut down the federal government this fall if Congress doesn’t cough up funds for his proposed border wall between Mexico and the U.S., President Donald Trump called America “the laughingstock of the world.”
He’s right. But not because America won’t build the unnecessary, multibillion-dollar boondoggle that he promised Mexico would pay for during his nativist race for the presidency in 2016, but because Congress is in a position to have to contend with Trump’s bluster about shutting down the government.
To their credit, congressional leaders, including Trump’s fellow Republicans, resisted the shutdown ploy.
Part of the congressional pushback is about politics: The GOP already faces strong headwinds heading into November’s midterm election, in large part because of Trump himself. And an ill-timed shutdown could further imperil Republican Senate and House majorities.
Part of the congressional pushback is about policy: There is so much backed-up business that Congress has left unfinished, including fiscal issues that would only be exacerbated by building a border wall.
In fact, 82 percent of voters say that they want the president and Congress to spend more time addressing the growing debt and deficit, according to a poll released last week by the nonpartisan Peter G. Peterson Foundation.
Another issue that should be higher on the congressional agenda is immigration itself.
The system is broken — a fact acknowledged on a bipartisan basis. And a fix, including a rational approach to enhanced border security, is badly needed.
Even the president seemed to agree during his news conference last Monday. “We have the worst immigration laws anywhere in the world,” Trump said.
He’s accurate in his diagnosis. But the cure is more complex than the simplistic solution of a border wall.
Congress needs to get to work on finding a more durable solution. And that won’t happen if the government grinds to a halt.