Week In Politics: Border Wall Funding And The Latest On The Government Shutdown

Jan 11, 2019
Originally published on January 11, 2019 7:29 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Well, as this shutdown approaches record length, we're going to talk now about the politics of the standoff with our Friday analysts Mary Katharine Ham of CNN and Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post. Thanks to you both for being here in the studio today.

JONATHAN CAPEHART: Thank you, Ari.

MARY KATHARINE HAM: Sure thing.

SHAPIRO: OK, so when the clock strikes midnight, this will be the longest shutdown in history. And all three of us have been in Washington for other government shutdowns, but this is the only one I've ever seen where as the days and weeks go by, the two sides don't appear to get any closer together. So how do you each see this ending, Mary Katharine?

HAM: Well, I think the national emergency solution - and I'm making air quotes (laughter) - is what would end it quickly. But I think - here's the problem - is that it's sort of a copout for both parties. Democrats could say, hey, we didn't give him any money for the wall, and Trump can say, hey, I got the wall. But it makes problem solving in the future so much harder. It's genuinely bad for society. Executive overreach will not help them solve problems in the future, and they need to be able to do that. I think in the end - and this - I think this is why Trump is backing off it. I think he thinks he has an edge here and that they - Democrats may come down and just have to relinquish their point on a little bit of physical barrier.

SHAPIRO: Jonathan, do you see that happening, and how would it happen without any actual negotiations?

CAPEHART: Right. I see no end in sight. To your point, Ari, about being in this situation before, at least we knew that there were honest brokers on all sides and, despite the rhetoric coming out publicly, behind the scenes, they were all feverish - feverishly working to come to a solution but also working off the same set of facts. That's not what's happening here.

And so I think that as long as the president keeps saying that he wants a border - wants the border wall a - excuse me - a physical wall, that is going to be a problem for Democrats. If they are able to have a conversation about border security writ large, which Democrats are more than happy to have...

SHAPIRO: You're talking about a package of measures...

CAPEHART: A package of...

SHAPIRO: ...Including staffing and...

CAPEHART: Sure.

SHAPIRO: ...Other - yeah.

CAPEHART: And when you talk to the - when you talk to people on the House side, they will tell you, you know, the first bill that Speaker Pelosi passed was the old Senate bill that passed unanimously in the old Congress which had money for the wall, other border security things but also something dealing with other immigration issues.

SHAPIRO: But it didn't have all the money for the wall that President Trump wanted.

CAPEHART: Correct - not all the money that the president wanted, but it went down because the president at the last minute pulled the rug out from under it in the last Congress. That's the impasse that we're at here.

SHAPIRO: So I...

HAM: Well...

SHAPIRO: Mary Katharine, yeah.

HAM: Yeah, I mean, the reason that I think this is because if you look at the pure political calculus - and that's - political pressure is what ends these things...

CAPEHART: Right.

HAM: ...Donald Trump's pressure point is not federal workers being out of their paychecks. It's just not. I'm not taking a position on that morally, but that's not his pressure point. It is a pressure point...

CAPEHART: Agreed.

HAM: ...For Democrats. So if...

SHAPIRO: But we've also seen a few Republicans in Congress join Democrats in voting to reopen the government. Could those numbers grow as the shutdown stretches on?

HAM: They could. I do think Trump is pretty dug in on this. On - I do think they - he has to get some sort of physical barrier money in a package. I think a package could work, but there has to be some give on the physical part of it.

SHAPIRO: It could (laughter)...

HAM: Although I have been wrong a thousand times before about Donald Trump, so...

CAPEHART: Well, right.

SHAPIRO: Because president - go ahead, Jonathan.

CAPEHART: Well, I was going to say here's the thing about his saying in the clip that you played he's not going to do it so fast, meaning declare a national emergency. If he were to - I am not convinced that he's not actually going to go through and do it.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. I want to ask about that because he has not totally ruled out declaring a national emergency. Let's listen for a moment to what both he and Nancy Pelosi have said about that this week.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: In many ways, it's the easy way out. But this is up to Congress, and it should be up to Congress, and they should do it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NANCY PELOSI: I think he's going to have to answer to his own party on usurping that much power.

SHAPIRO: That idea that Republicans would make him pay a price if he did that - how persuasive do you think that is to him, Mary Katharine? Do you think that's true?

HAM: I don't think he cares that much about what many (laughter) Republicans think, as he has shown over and over again. And look; executive overreach is an issue, and it is the easy way out, but it is a short-term solution, and it is a long-term, very big problem. And it was, by the way, something that conservatives pointed out when Obama did the DACA action - would not actually solve that problem and is a problem moving forward.

SHAPIRO: And Jonathan, would this then be a green light for a future Democratic president to declare a national emergency for something like climate change?

CAPEHART: Something like climate change, something like gun safety. I mean, I don't think Republicans truly appreciate the Pandora's box that they are about to open up if they watch the president declare a national emergency and then don't scream with one unified voice, Mr. President, this is wrong.

And I don't take - I don't trust the president's words here that he won't actually do it. This is a man who has pushed the envelope on so many things that we thought would never happen. And yet he's done it, and he keeps pushing because there's never any consequence. There's never any - he's never held accountable for it. If he declares a national emergency and if Republicans on Capitol Hill believe that it is the wrong thing to do, it would be imperative upon them to say so.

HAM: He also likes expediency, and he likes to be the person who made it happen. So I think that appeals to him.

SHAPIRO: This week, the White House has staged so many events to try to sell this wall to the American people or to Republicans and Democrats in Congress. We've seen the president go to the border. We've seen him have congressional leaders to the White House and then walk out on them. He's had his first primetime Oval Office address. Do you think any of this has moved the needle at all?

HAM: I - the primetime addresses were just the exact same arguments with no movement...

CAPEHART: Right.

HAM: ...On - and no new ideas whatsoever. So I'm not sure where that got us other than that we all had to watch the primetime addresses.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

CAPEHART: Right. It didn't move the needle, and - but this is all - it was theater. The Oval Office address was theater. The trip to the border was theater. And we know it's theater because reports have come out saying that the president thought that it was a waste of time and pointed to aides who were, he said, making him...

SHAPIRO: These people want me to do this.

CAPEHART: These people...

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

CAPEHART: ...Want me to do this.

SHAPIRO: We, every time there's a shutdown, talk about the political consequences, and it seems that every time an election rolls around, people have forgotten about the shutdown. So this time we're talking about whether Democrats or Republicans in Congress or the president will pay more of a political price. Do you think ultimately when this is said and done and it's time for another election two years from now, this will have long-term political consequences for anyone?

HAM: I think it depends on how long it goes on. If it goes on for truly, like, even more dysfunctional amount of time than usual, than it may have some consequences. But frankly, each one has fewer consequences than the last, as we have seen moving through all of these.

CAPEHART: Right. And then if you throw - I agree with Mary Katharine. And then if you throw in the X-factor, which could be a true national emergency, a natural disaster, something so cataclysmic that it requires the government to jump into action - and if the government is in shutdown and it can't jump into action and more Americans are impacted, that is when people's long-term memories will kick in.

SHAPIRO: Could this actually help a politician who wants to argue that government is broken; Washington is dysfunctional; here's exhibit A?

HAM: I mean, that's how they will position. But many people are getting to a point where - and it covers both parties - where they say, like, this is just - you're not being grownups. No one there is being grownups. And I don't think this is helping that at all.

SHAPIRO: Jonathan, I feel like people have been saying that about Washington for a very long time now.

CAPEHART: Right, but there's a difference between government is broken, which is the decades-old argument. And then there's the other argument that there is no governing happening. And I think that's where we are right now.

SHAPIRO: Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post, thanks very much.

CAPEHART: Thank you, Ari.

SHAPIRO: And Mary Katharine Ham of CNN, great to have you here.

HAM: Appreciate it.

SHAPIRO: Have a great weekend to both of you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.