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Out of Excuses

January 29, 2019
Weekly Columns

With the partial government shutdown recently ended, I wanted to provide a recap of the turn of events. The past several weeks were certainly frustrating and inconvenient for all Americans, but the shutdown was especially painful for those who went without pay for more than a month. Like others, I am grateful to the hundreds of thousands of federal workers for their commitment and dedication despite the hardship. But I am also disappointed that Democrats prolonged that hardship by playing political games rather than coming to the table to negotiate with Republicans and President Trump.

To review, Congress fully funded 75 percent of the government at the end of September, which marked the first time in 22 years this had occurred before the start of the fiscal year. To provide additional time for negotiation on the remaining 25 percent of annual funding, Congress passed and the president signed into law a short-term continuing resolution. Unfortunately, despite great success earlier in the fall, agreement could not be reached when that short-term measure expired on December 21, 2018. The sticking point of disagreement was the issue of border security, including the president’s funding request for some physical barriers and security improvements at the southern border.

While Republicans in both chambers supported the president’s modest funding request to strengthen border security, it was only the House that successfully passed legislation to fulfill it—before the partial government shutdown began. Considering that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have acknowledged fixes are needed to better secure the border, it is ridiculous that Democratic Senators refused to commit their votes when the opportunity came to provide for those improvements.

The president was vocal about his position all along, making it clear he would only sign legislation to fund the government which also included money to strengthen border security. However, President Trump has not been unwilling to compromise. In fact, he demonstrated willingness to negotiate on two separate occasions. Before the shutdown took effect, he proposed a lower number he could accept. Democrats refused to meet him halfway.

While the shutdown was going on, the president further sought to compromise and negotiate in good faith with Democrats. On January 19 during a televised address, he laid out a proposal to reopen the government and solve problems both sides agreed on. This included provisional status for current DACA recipients—something Democrats have long demanded. It also included money for physical barriers, technology, infrastructure and personnel to secure our southern border. Unfortunately, Democrats chose to oppose the president’s plan before they even heard it.

Since the shutdown extended into January, it also extended into a new Congress and an era of divided government. Upon the shift in majority control of the House, Democrats quickly initiated a failed strategy that needlessly wasted time that could have been spent negotiating. Week after week, House Democrats brought up appropriations bills to reopen the government, but each effort failed to address the crisis at our southern border.

Along with wasting time on nonstarter legislation, House Democrats repeatedly promised that they would only negotiate on border security after the government was back open. Even with majority control in the House, Democrats must reach across the aisle. Republicans still control the Senate and the White House. In order to get things done for the American people, bipartisan and good faith negotiation is critical. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats have already failed their first test.

Last week, President Trump showed another good faith effort and looked past the Democrats’ political games and drama. Taking Democrats at their word, he announced agreement to reopen the government for three weeks. While I am always hopeful, I do remain skeptical of Democrats’ ability to recognize and accept a compromise, considering their current track record. But one thing is certain: They are now out of excuses.