Monday, December 24, 2018

When the fractional shutdown of the federal government morphs into let’s-make-a-deal, look at what Trump can offer Schumer - Thomas Lifson

by Thomas Lifson

President Trump knows that time is on his side as the pressure eventually builds for a resolution to the so-called shutdown, and he's got something to offer Schumer that the Minority Leader really, really wants.

President Trump knows that time is on his side as the pressure eventually builds for a resolution to the so-called shutdown. I suppose that there are die-hard hysterics out there who believe that shutting down the non-essential parts of the one quarter of the federal budget that is now unfunded is some sort of crisis. But as Clarice Feldman caustically notes this morning, “This being Christmas week, it's unlikely anyone will notice. The Democrats really strategized this one well, didn't they?”

The primary “victims” are the government workers who get extra paid vacation days, though their pay will be delayed until after a deal is reached. If the deal is delayed, the improvident among them may have to face Christmas bills without the expected paycheck to cover it. Since federal employees overwhelmingly vote for the Party of Big Government, these are Schumer’s constituents.

The bigger point is that ordinary Americans are discovering how little that one quarter of the federal government is missed – not a comforting notion for the Democrats. So, if the pressure to come to a deal is going to escalate, the pressure on Dems will be rising faster.

Meanwhile, Senator Lindsey Graham avers, “We will not give in.”

President Trump prides himself on his deal-making abilities. Part of that is waiting until his opponent faces pressure to compromise. Sooner or later, the Party of Big Government is going to want the other 25% back in working order more than the party of Donald Trump and Lindsey Graham.

OK, so what could Trump offer Schumer?

Two big items stand out. One is purely symbolic: flexibility on terminology. Call it a “slat fence,” a “border barrier” or whatever else you want. Trump is flexible on terminology. Sure, “Build the slat fence!” is a less attractive chant than “Build the wall!” but who cares once the funding is in hand? Intellectuals care a lot about terminology, but nobody has ever called Trump an intellectual.

The second item is very substantive, and speaks to substance that Chuck Schumer really, really badly wants and needs. Rep. Paul Gosar laid it out in a conversation with Breitbart radio:
Gosar said the GOP should hinge a massive, $29 billion New York infrastructure project — supported by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and Schumer — on fully funding Trump’s proposed border wall.
Gosar said:
Governor Cuomo was in town two weeks ago yesterday … he removed his name from running in 2020 but he begged the president for the funding of the Gateway [Program] project. The big tunnel, the Hudson Tunnel up in New York. [Emphasis added]
It’s estimated at $29 billion. And what my suggestion has been is put the $29 billion for the tunnel on the table along with $25 billion for the wall. And you say ‘Chuck, you’ve got one shot at this. If you don’t take it now, you are not going to get it for the next two years.’ [Emphasis added]
It is hard to overstate the importance of this project to Schumer's home town. The existing twin tunnels are almost a century old, and were wonders of the world when first constructed. This book tells the story very well. 

But the tunnels were seriously damaged by salt water during Super Storm Sandy, causing the electrical equipment to falter and corroding the structure of the tunnels. If they have to close (which is likely, as there are serious safety issues), Manhattan would lack a rail connection to the rest of the national rail network, and a huge number of New Jersey commuters and Acela passengers from DC (from Schumer to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez). The tunnels already are close to capacity.

Those New Jersey and New York commuters, and the Northeast corridor rail travelers, like the federal bureaucrats, are Democrat constituents, for the most part.

If a deal is to be reached, I think Rep, Gosar has identified the most promising bargaining chip that Trump has.

Thomas Lifson


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