Democratic leaders face backlash if they compromise on wall

Democratic activists are warning that Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerProtecting our judiciary must be a priority in the 116th Congress Baldwin's Trump plays 'Deal or No Deal' with shutdown on 'Saturday Night Live' Sunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal MORE (N.Y.) and House Democratic Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDACA recipient claims Trump is holding ‘immigrant youth hostage’ amid quest for wall Fox’s Wallace to Pence: Is government shutdown all about ‘leverage?' Former House Republican: Trump will lose the presidency if he backs away from border security MORE (Calif.) will face angry backlash from their liberal base if they compromise on border fencing without getting a significant concession from President TrumpDonald John TrumpDACA recipient claims Trump is holding ‘immigrant youth hostage’ amid quest for wall Lady Gaga blasts Pence as ‘worst representation of what it means to be Christian’ We have a long history of disrespecting Native Americans and denying their humanity MORE in return.

“Americans overwhelmingly voted for Democratic control of the House to put a check on Trump on exactly this kind of reckless behavior,” said Charles Chamberlain, chairman of Democracy for America, a grass-roots liberal advocacy group.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Democrats need to stand up for American values and a check on Trump, over and over again, as many times as they have to, to defeat the worst policies of this administration,” he said. “That’s what we’re expecting them to do and if there’s brinksmanship from Trump that causes damage to America, that’s on Trump.”

Democratic activists see the current standoff over the border wall as a key test ahead a year of expected conflict with Trump on other issues, such as the debt ceiling and the new trade deal to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.

They warn of repercussions if Schumer and Pelosi give Trump something that can be declared a victory for his plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Heidi Hess, the co-director of Credo Action, another grass-roots liberal advocacy group, said Schumer and Pelosi need to stand up to Trump and put an end to future efforts to bully Democrats by holding other must-pass bills hostage, such as the debt ceiling increase. 

“We just don’t see any reason why Democrats should be compromising,” she said. “This is Trump’s shutdown over a wall that is going to do nothing, that he promised Mexico would pay for.” 

She said the border wall has become “a symbol” of the president’s immigration policies, which many liberals characterize as racist. 

“We actually have an opportunity and a mandate as Democrats and progressives to really show what we stand for and how we’re willing to stand up for our values and not compromise them,” she said. “It’s certainly our belief that's what Pelosi and Schumer should do.”

Democratic leaders don't appear to be backing down. Pelosi in an interview with NBC’s “Today,” set to air Thursday morning, said Trump will not get any money from Democrats for a wall.

Asked by host Savannah Guthrie if Democrats would give any ground, Pelosi responded, “No, no. Nothing for the wall.”

Schumer and Pelosi took a hard line with Trump at a Wednesday meeting with Trump and GOP leaders, pressing him to reopen shuttered federal agencies by passing six of the year-end spending bills not related to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

ADVERTISEMENT

Schumer repeatedly asked Trump to provide a good reason why he didn’t want to open agencies unrelated to DHS. Eventually Trump responded that he "would look foolish” if he did that, according to a person familiar with the details of the meeting. 

The political pressure on Democratic leaders means they’re not likely to give Trump what he wants anytime soon and the partial government shutdown may drag on for days — or even weeks, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDACA recipient claims Trump is holding ‘immigrant youth hostage’ amid quest for wall Former House Republican: Trump will lose the presidency if he backs away from border security Pence quotes MLK in pitch for Trump's immigration proposal MORE (R-Ky.) speculated to reporters on Wednesday.

Democratic strategists say there’s no reason to give in to Trump when public polling shows Schumer and Pelosi have commanding leverage, especially after Trump declared in televised remarks at a Dec. 11 meeting that he "will take the mantle” for a shutdown.

A Reuters–Ipsos poll released late last month showed that only 25 percent of Americans nationwide backed Trump’s strategy of blocking spending bills to get the border wall. Only 35 percent of respondents said they support including money for the border wall in government funding legislation.

The survey also showed a plurality, 47 percent, blaming Trump for the shutdown, while 33 percent blamed Democrats.

But Trump doesn't appear to be backing down, either.

Trump said in televised remarks at the start of a Cabinet meeting Wednesday that he would insist on the full $5.6 billion in funding for the wall and warned a shutdown could last “a long time.”

“It’s too important a subject to walk away from,” he said.

Robert Borosage, co-director of Campaign for America’s Future, a liberal advocacy group, said Schumer and Pelosi may be able to give Trump some more money for border fencing if they get a meaningful concession in return, but he ruled out Trump’s full request of $5.6 billion as a non-starter.

“He’s got to give them something,” he said of Trump. “What I don’t think he’s ever going to get is $5.6 billion or $5 billion. If they did that, there would be a pushback on that."

One concession floated to Trump by Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamExperts warn of persistent ISIS threat after suicide bombing Graham: Trump should meet Pakistan's leader to reset relations State of American politics is all power games and partisanship MORE (R-S.C.) this week involves wedding border funding to work permits for Dreamers, or recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. 

Domingo Garcia, the national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said Democrats need to get Trump to give Dreamers, who came to the country illegally at a young age, a pathway to citizenship in exchange for any increase in border security funding.

“There has to be a concession. You got 900,000 young men and women, many who have served in our military, whose lives are in limbo because they’re being held hostage just like federal employees are being held hostage by Trump’s shutdown,” Garcia said.

Trump suggested he's open to the idea, according to Graham, but other Republican leaders on Capitol Hill have shown little interest.

Trump in January rejected an offer from Schumer to provide $25 billion for the border wall in exchange for protecting Dreamers from deportation after conservatives demanded additional restrictions to legal immigration.