The star of ‘Presidential Apprentice’ has clearly learned nothing from his previous defeats. As the benchmark 100th day of his term approaches this weekend, Donald Trump is so desperate to score a legislative win — any kind of win — that he would hold the health insurance plans of millions of American families, and even the federal government itself, hostage.
Trump seems to believe that he can realistically threaten to break the law by withholding Obamacare subsidies, or play chicken with budget deadlines, and then blame the resulting debacle on Democrats for not funding his border wall.
This is “consistent with Trump’s method of operation,” Martin Longman points out. “Rather than honor a contract, he’ll refuse to pay it until threatened with legal action. Then he’ll countersue and offer a pittance of what he owes as a reasonable compromise.”
But in the end, Trump will either blink, or bear the entire burden of a disaster he made all by himself. He’s going to end up looking weak either way.
Without congressional action and a presidential signature, the United States government runs out of money after midnight this Saturday morning, which is also the 100th day since the inauguration. Surprisingly, Republicans and Democrats had been working towards a compromise with admirable bipartisanship when Trump’s budget director threw a spanner into the works last week.
All but promising a veto of any spending bill that did not include money for a border wall, Mick Mulvaney told the Institute of International Finance that Democrats would have to cave because “they lost the election.” Trump also tweeted a dire warning of Obamacare’s imminent collapse yesterday unless Democrats agree to his demands.
Yet Trump’s real problem is that members of his own party, particularly those who represent districts along the border, don’t want to build a useless monument to his ego at public expense. He needs 60 votes in the Senate, so this attempt to coerce Democrats is really about the internal weaknesses of a Republican majority that is unlikely to ever “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act or build his border wall.
The Trump administration is making a full-court press for border wall spending, but there are already signs that Trump’s threats are hollow. Whereas Mulvaney spoke of a matching dollar-for-dollar deal, the White House has since indicated an offer of $7 billion in subsidies for just $1.5 billion in wall-building money.
Democrats have shown no sign of capitulating, either. “We’d ask him to let us do our work, not throw in some last-minute poison pills that could undo it, and we could get this done,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said to reporters yesterday. Appearing on Meet the Press, Nancy Pelosi told Chuck Todd that Trump’s threats are “a sign of weakness.”
There are two reasons they can express such confidence. First, Trump would be vulnerable to another embarrassing defeat in federal court if he chose to flout the Affordable Care Act. Second, there is no way that the media or the public will blame the minority party in Congress for a government shutdown that Trump has instigated.
In the end, Democrats may agree to a few hundred million in border security funding — nowhere near the billions needed to construct hundreds of miles of wall, but enough that Donald Trump can proclaim a YUGE VICTORY. Which might actually be the weakest outcome of all, since no one who voted for his ridiculous daydream would be fooled by the pittance.
Ironically, Trump’s anxiety over his lack of accomplishments seems certain to lead to his biggest disappointment yet.
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