From the beginning, President Donald Trump did not have an end game for his government shutdown. Now, his plan is a shambles and his compliments to government workers who showed up without getting paychecks appear vapid and insincere.
After all, who caused this “national emergency” in the first place?
The president failed to pass his much-discussed border “wall” during two years in which his party had majorities on both sides of Capitol Hill. Then, a bipartisan agreement was thrown out the window by the White House, demanding $5 billion more for a wall — not enough to build one, but plenty to deadlock with the new Democratic majority in the House.
That was no way to run a government.
Now, the Great Wall of Trump is reduced to a study committee that will report what version of border security spending can be justified. This is unquestionably defeat for the president but at least he is admitting along the way that “nobody” wanted a giant wall from sea to shining sea on the southern border.
For us in Louisiana, where illegal immigration is not one of the most pressing issues anyway, the impact of the shutdown was far more negative — whatever one’s views of border security, and we can see some merit on both sides of that argument.
Some 8,000 Louisiana families were affected by the shutdown of about a quarter of the U.S. government. Real hardship was visited on the workers from several agencies; not just regular federal employees but contractors working for the government were affected.
Travelers noticed the slowdowns because airport screenings were affected at TSA posts. Some agencies affected are important to all Americans, such as researchers in federal laboratories, but in Louisiana the impairment in planning for hurricane season is one obvious problem for us.
The new Trump climbdown was ratified by Congress, and lasts only for three weeks, but it is hardly realistic that the White House will be willing to tempt fate with its approval ratings by courting another shutdown.
Still, we hope that the study committee envisioned by Trump does focus on reaching common ground. If experts recommend more extensive and elaborate fencing or even significantly larger solid structures, that should not be rejected out of hand.
There should be two lessons in this historically long shutdown.
One is that compromise, even on such a politically volatile subject as border security, is an essential element of government, particularly with Congress divided by party.
The other one, though, is that Congress tempts fate when it drags and drags on passing appropriations bills to pay for government operations. A return to “regular order,” doing the Congress’ business in a timely fashion, lessens the chances of last-minute clashes that escalate into deadlock and threaten bread on the tables of ordinary folks who are just doing their jobs for the American people.