The battle over securing the southern border is bigger than any wall. It is about whether our nation will actually defend its borders against an unconventional invasion — one designed to play on our heartstrings through the inclusion of women and children — but also fundamentally transform our nation from a constitutional republic to a permanent socialist majority.
This isn’t just about a wall or fence line, it is about the basic right of the United States to have borders. It has already been established that those who enter our nation illegally our costing the country approximately $338 billion annually according to a just released study by the Center for Immigration Studies. These costs will only increase as Medicare, Social Security, welfare, health care, housing, food stamp and education budgets get further strained by the thousands who flow across the border illegally each month.
That is the backdrop for the current fight in Washington, D.C. over whether funding should be provided to build a wall and provide for other key security measures along the border.
And the funding fight is relatively isolated with the Department of Defense already fully funded, along with the Veteran’s Administration, Labor Department and Health & Human Services. Soldiers are getting paid, veterans are receiving checks, Social Security and Medicare payments are being sent on time. But agencies like the Interior, EPA, Transportation, HUD and others are operating using only essential personnel whose paychecks will be delayed until after Congress and the President agree on funding priorities.
Another 300,000 plus federal employees whose jobs are classified as ‘non-essential’ are not working, and will not be paid unless Congress and the President pass legislation authorizing back pay.
The funding fight is currently focused solely on the Democrats’ refusal to provide funds for securing the southern border which would include building a wall. A week before Christmas, the House of Representatives passed legislation which would provide about $5.7 billion for the wall, other border security measures, as well as emergency relief spending for California fire and hurricane victims in Florida.
House Democrats now have a plan that would allow the $1.3 billion already authorized for border security to be spent. While details of the proposal are unavailable, past descriptions of this plan predict that no money would be allowed to be used for new wall funding, instead allowing fixing existing fencing among other items.
With the Democrats now in control of the House of Representatives, it will be a battle of wills between the new House majority and the President with the GOP Senate majority rendered relatively meaningless as seven Democrats are needed to pass any meaningful wall funding due to the filibuster rules requirement that 60 votes be obtained. Given this recipe for gridlock which the voters decided to create in November, the nation should prepare for at least a month more of this logjam.
However, in one very important respect, the upcoming new Congress actually changes everything in terms of the government appropriations. While those agencies like the Defense Department are fully funded through September 30th (end of federal fiscal year), those without current funding are subject to renegotiation on spending levels agreed to by the previous Congress. Spending levels that reflected a continuation and expansion of President Obama’s spending priorities due to the willingness of Senate Democrats to shut down the government if their government expansion spending priorities were not accepted.
The irony that Senate Democrats cemented these priorities by using their willingness to shut down the government if they did not get their way as a cudgel can now come back to bite them since they no longer can hold fear of a shutdown over the collective heads of the GOP.
Now much of that national debt spiraling spending is subject to renegotiation without the cudgel of the government shutdown threat since those portions under discussion are already not funded.
With the previously passed funding bills defunct on January 3, the President and Senate Republicans should insist upon funding cuts to those agencies whose budgets are still awaiting approval focusing upon Democrat spending priorities.
Now, that we are in a partial shutdown anyway, the President needs to use his constitutional power to veto any funding bill which not only fails to fully fund border security ($15 billion rather than the rejected compromise amount of $5 billion), but also which don’t reflect his other spending priorities.
With the deficit approaching $1 trillion for this fiscal year, the new Congress gives the President and Senator Majority Leader McConnell the ability to rewrite the script and force some small level of fiscal austerity on the new, tenuous, House Democratic majority for those agencies under shutdown. Every week that the Democrats refuse to open the government through funding adequate protection for the nation’s border, the President and Majority Leader should whack one percent from the budgets of the shutdown agencies — focusing upon programs that are Democrat priorities.
Additionally, beyond the announcement that the President is stopping all federal worker raises for FY19 through Executive Order, Trump and McConnell should jointly agree that the 300,000 laid off, non-working federal workers, will not be paid for time off. While it might seem harsh, the truth is that in the private sector workers idled by a labor dispute or a work slowdown due to the economy don’t get back pay for time lost. From a practical perspective, these public employees who Chuck Schumer and soon to be Speaker, Nancy Pelosi are holding hostage by their refusal to fund the basic function of the federal government — protecting our national borders — will soon be screaming at Schumer and Pelosi to fund the wall because the Democrats almost exclusively represent the Washington, D.C. metro area where a preponderance of them work.
Ultimately it is that pressure on Democrats from both the funding cut demands that the GOP Senate and the President can force along with a determination not to pay those who have not worked, which will force a resolution that meets basic security requirements.
Today, the Democrats are getting all of their priorities funded with zero political downside to obstructing building a southern border wall. However, if the GOP holds firm, the political table will shift and it will be Democrats begging for a deal.
And that is how the President and Senate Majority Leader can lead the nation to overcome those who view the southern border as an open door for their future voters to help them establish a permanent socialist majority in America.
The author is president of Americans for Limited Government