Tapper: Shutdown complete and utter failure

CNN's Jake Tapper discusses the government shutdown at day 21, tying it with the longest government shutdown of all time, where nearly one million Americans did not receive a paycheck.

Posted: Jan 13, 2019 6:56 AM
Updated: Jan 13, 2019 6:56 AM

President Donald Trump often boasts he's presiding over a record breaking presidency.

Now he's got another historic notch on his belt, the longest-ever government shutdown — an impasse that marks a new low for Washington dysfunction.

The dispute triggered by Trump's demands for billions of dollars to finally make good on an unfulfilled campaign promise — to build a border wall — began so long ago that Republicans had a monopoly on Washington power. The Democratic takeover of the House has deepened the disconnect, and with neither side willing to fold, nearly 22 days in, there is still no end in sight.

Since Trump crowed he would be "proud" to shutter the government over the wall, he gets to shoulder much of the blame for a crisis that is the inevitable result when the nation's political polarization is institutionalized in Washington.

The last three weeks have exposed the lack of empathy of a billionaire President who shrugs off the struggles of federal workers who work paycheck to paycheck. Trump is clearly more concerned about a pet political project than his constitutional role of providing governance to all Americans.

But he is not alone in his dereliction of duty. The Republican-led Senate is doing nothing to offer its President a face saving way out. And while House Democrats are going through the motions of passing bills to reopen government, they don't seem to be doing much else to break the logjam. Before Trump was President, party leaders had seemed at least open to funding a barrier on the border as part of wider immigration legislation.

Trump urged party leaders Friday to return to Washington and vote for a wall, a barrier or whatever they want to call it -- even "peaches."

"This is where I ask the Democrats to come back to Washington and to vote for money for the wall, the barrier, whatever you want to call it, it's OK with me," the President said during a White House roundtable on immigration.

"They can name it whatever. They can name it 'peaches.' I don't care what they name it. But we need money for that barrier," he added.

The stalemate represents a crucial first fight between Trump and his Democratic enemies in Washington's new era of divided government.

But every battle has victims. And right now it's 800,000 government workers who feel insulted, forgotten and anxious about rent, mortgage, car payment and medical bills piling up.

While they fret, nothing is happening in Washington this weekend. In fact, members of Congress, who are getting paid, are off until Monday.

They might notice as they fly home that the nation's transportation system is under strain. Many of those TSA agents who keep travelers safe are working without pay. An airport in Tampa is opening a food bank for employees. And some food inspections are on hold with government shut down.

"I would beg both Houses of Congress, I would beg the American people to please look around and understand that federal workers, we have a face — we have families," Jacqueline Maloney, a federal worker whose paycheck didn't arrive on Friday, told CNN's Brooke Baldwin in an emotional interview.

"We might be a neighbor, your best friend, your best friend's mom, your aunt, your cousin. We are everywhere."

Government shutdowns usually end when the political leaders caught in the standoff calculate that the political damage sustained by standing firm begins to outweigh the embarrassment of a climbdown.

With tales of anger and deprivation of government workers stuck in a terrible situation beyond their control now dominating news coverage, that point may be coming closer.

Neither side however is showing any sign of cracking yet.

It's on Trump

But for Trump, there would have been no shutdown. The President, apparently fearing a backlash in conservative media, refused to keep the government open before Christmas unless he got wall funding.

In the last week, Trump has tried a variety of political stunts to try to shift the blame. He gave an Oval Office address. He stormed out of talks with Democratic leaders. He flew Air Force One to the border to paint an inaccurate picture of hordes of criminals and killers pouring into the country.

"The only way you will stop it is with a very powerful wall or steel barrier," Trump said at the White House on Friday.

Now, as he seeks taxpayer cash to build a wall that he promised Mexico would pay for, the President is offering the fact-bending claims that America's neighbor has already settled up -- in a yet to be ratified new trade deal.

By any conventional measure, Trump is guilty of putting his own political ego above the interests of the Americans he leads. For all the power of his campaign trail rhetoric among supporters, he's not shifted the political needle at all. He seems oblivious that in divided government, a President can't just demand what he wants.

Trump's supporters argue that there is a genuine crisis on the border and brand as "fake news" any argument that a wall along the frontier with Mexico may not be the best way to tackle drug trafficking and ballooning asylum claims.

In fact, the wall has become such an emotional center of Trump's relationship with his political base — and such a symbol of antipathy towards the President for those who oppose him — that it's become an insoluble issue.

And government workers are paying the price.

"The bottom line is there is no excuse for the political stunt just because the President had made a commitment when he ran for office and afterwards," said Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor, in a CNN interview.

"He cannot get it done and deliver for his constituency. He should just stand up and say I tried and let's get on with the next thing," said Bloomberg, a possible 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. "There's no one issue or one constituency. The President has not been elected to be the representative of a party, or of a small group, he's supposed to be representative of a whole country."

So far, Trump has held off on his threat to declare a national emergency and reprogram Pentagon funds — possibly from disaster relief projects in Puerto Rico and Texas — to finance his wall.

Such a step might allow him to declare a victory that most people will believe to be hollow. He might be able to sell his supporters on a battle in the courts after an almost certain legal challenge and reap political capital.

But it would also represent a fundamental flouting of constitutional governance, since a future president, thwarted by Congress fulfilling its core task of deciding how taxpayer money is spent, could choose to go ahead with a favorite political project regardless.

Hypocrisy

The failure of Congress to unpick the deadlock has disgusted some of its most venerable members.

"How can we resolve this? We owe it to the American people. This is like a circus," Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama said earlier in the week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who once boasted that "I'm the guy that gets us out of shutdowns," has been a ghostly presence.

McConnell has refused to act on Democratic House bills to open various government agencies, since Trump will not agree to sign them.

For now, McConnell has no desire to open cracks in the Republican coalition by breaking with a President who has leveraged his devoted base to punish any dissidents in his party.

There could come a time, however, when clear discomfort among some GOP members, like Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, Alaska's Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Maine's Sen. Susan Collins, begins to make life uncomfortable for McConnell.

The bitterness of shutdown politics has also revealed a seam of hypocrisy that festers on both sides of the aisle in this fractured political age.

In 2016, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham signed on to an amicus brief in a Supreme Court case challenging President Barack Obama's use of executive power to shield recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program from deportation.

The document complained that Obama's move was an attempt to supplant Congress' power and a threat to the constitutional principle of separation of powers. Those norms seem less important to the South Carolinian now Trump is in the White House.

"Mr. President, Declare a national emergency NOW. Build a wall NOW," Graham tweeted on Friday after meeting Trump.

Part of Graham's frustration stems from his belief that Democrats are hypocrites for refusing to contemplate immigration enforcement policies that they have favored in the past.

Early last year, Democrats and the White House appeared close to a deal that would have given Trump $25 billion in border security in return for a path to citizenship for DACA recipients — undocumented migrants brought to the US illegally as children.

Trump eventually pulled out of the deal.

The idea of border fencing, or a wall in some areas, has not been so radioactive for Democrats in the past.

In 2006, Democrats including now-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and then-Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama voted to authorize a secure fence along about 700 miles of the US-Mexico border.

The project was far from the concrete or steel wall envisioned by Trump.

But given the symbolic potency of the idea of a wall, it's not clear Democrats — who do not want their first act in the majority in the House to be a concession to Trump, would contemplate any such plan today.

"A wall is an immorality," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said this week.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 313166

Reported Deaths: 7228
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21496257
Hinds20294414
Harrison17814309
Rankin13573278
Jackson13411246
Madison10066217
Lee9962173
Jones8364163
Forrest7649152
Lauderdale7181240
Lowndes6370145
Lamar621686
Lafayette6171118
Washington5323133
Bolivar4797132
Oktibbeha461498
Panola4561105
Pearl River4499145
Marshall4397103
Warren4380121
Pontotoc419572
Monroe4100133
Union409076
Neshoba4026176
Lincoln3950110
Hancock377786
Leflore3487125
Sunflower335790
Tate332484
Pike3301105
Scott315373
Alcorn311968
Yazoo310769
Itawamba299477
Copiah296465
Simpson294788
Coahoma294379
Tippah287768
Prentiss279560
Adams269582
Marion268880
Leake266273
Wayne262341
Grenada260386
Covington256381
George246848
Newton246061
Winston226881
Tishomingo225967
Jasper220848
Attala214173
Chickasaw207157
Holmes188673
Clay184754
Stone182033
Tallahatchie178140
Clarke177879
Calhoun170132
Yalobusha163337
Smith162234
Walthall133845
Greene130333
Lawrence128323
Montgomery126742
Noxubee126734
Perry125938
Amite122842
Carroll121728
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis106932
Tunica104826
Claiborne102230
Benton99125
Humphreys96133
Kemper95428
Franklin83623
Quitman80216
Choctaw76118
Wilkinson66930
Jefferson65428
Sharkey50317
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 530988

Reported Deaths: 10978
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson765291522
Mobile40971804
Madison34751503
Tuscaloosa25775452
Montgomery24329589
Shelby23431249
Baldwin21131308
Lee15884171
Calhoun14501314
Morgan14293279
Etowah13831353
Marshall12222223
Houston10567281
Elmore10061205
Limestone9960151
Cullman9664193
St. Clair9655243
Lauderdale9424241
DeKalb8830186
Talladega8223176
Walker7235277
Autauga6920108
Jackson6810112
Blount6660137
Colbert6298134
Coffee5511119
Dale4831111
Russell441138
Chilton4290112
Franklin425782
Covington4121118
Tallapoosa4027152
Escambia393376
Chambers3563123
Dallas3551151
Clarke351061
Marion3118101
Pike310877
Lawrence300298
Winston274472
Bibb260764
Geneva249977
Marengo249764
Pickens234461
Barbour230857
Hale222977
Butler215969
Fayette212362
Henry188744
Cherokee184845
Randolph180241
Monroe177440
Washington167339
Macon159150
Clay156256
Crenshaw152257
Cleburne148941
Lamar142535
Lowndes138853
Wilcox127130
Bullock123041
Conecuh110529
Perry107726
Coosa107228
Sumter104532
Greene92334
Choctaw60624
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