Congressional leaders reportedly have reached a tentative deal on immigration/the border. The deal apparently would grant just $1.375 billion for 55 miles of fencing along the border. President Trump seeks $5.7 billion for more than 200 miles.
In addition, the deal reportedly reduces an overall cap on detention beds maintained by ICE. Republican staffers are saying that ICE would have enough money and flexibility to maintain its current detention levels, but even current bed levels are inadequate. As I understand it, Trump is seeking an increase of about 25 percent.
As described in reports, this looks like a bad deal. Wall funding would be insufficient to enable Trump to keep his signature campaign promise and insufficient to secure the border.
It’s clear, though, the Democrats aren’t going to agree to wall funding at a sufficient level. What, then, are Trump’s options?
He could refuse to accept the deal. But if congressional Republicans are agreeable to it, Trump will be politically isolated if he doesn’t sign on.
Moreover, not signing on would mean another government shutdown. Trump was blamed for the last one and will be blamed even more if he is seen as having just scuttled a deal his party’s leaders were willing to accept.
Trump could agree to the deal and then spend more than the appropriated money on the wall on the theory that this is necessary to meet a national emergency. But there may be a problem with claiming that spending $5 billion plus is needed for walling/fencing in order to deal with an emergency after Congress has passed, and the president has signed, legislation that devotes much less money to deal with the same crisis.
The Supreme Court might view an agreement by the legislative and executive branches to spend $1.375 billion for 55 miles of additional fencing as inconsistent with a claim that there will be a national emergency if the president doesn’t spend $5.7 billion for more than 200 miles of walling. The Supreme Court is understandably reluctant to overturn the outcome of the political process on issues such as how much money should be devoted to combating a particular problem.
Trump’s other option is to accept the deal and declare victory. Swing voters wouldn’t accept the declaration but might well be relieved that Trump compromised and the government remained open.
Would Trump’s base agree that Trump has won? I don’t know. Trump once said his supporters would continue to back him even he shot people “in the middle of Fifth Avenue.” Accepting the bipartisan deal reportedly being reached would put the thinking behind this claim to the test.
Trump might be better advised to declare an emergency and put the federal judiciary to the test.