Budowsky: Pelosi can break shutdown stalemate

Budowsky: Pelosi can break shutdown stalemate
© Greg Nash

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats sharpen their message on impeachment Congress hunts for path out of spending stalemate Siren song of impeachment lures Democrats toward election doom MORE (D-Calif.) can make Trump an offer he can’t refuse without doing grave damage to his party and our country. She can call for the government shutdown to immediately end for 30 to 60 days, begin dramatic negotiations over immigration policy during that period and state she will accept a deal that gives Trump the border security funding he seeks in return for a permanent solution for the Dreamers and a formal end to the cruel policy of separation of migrant families.

This is similar to the position of most Democrats and Americans today. The political trick is to not simply describe the president’s recent proposal for temporary relief for the Dreamers as a nonstarter but to describe it as a starting point for negotiations, call for an immediate end to the shutdown and set clear goals for negotiations that a huge majority of Democrats and majority of Americans support.


If Democrats offer this proposal, in this manner, the American people in large numbers would welcome the Democratic plan to end the shutdown. They would strongly back the Democratic plan to grant permanent relief to the Dreamers and end the family separation policy that is opposed by leaders of great faiths across the political spectrum.

If Trump rejects this proposal because he refuses to accept a permanent solution for the Dreamers, whom he once claimed he loves, he would be admitting in plain view of the nation that he is the hostage of ultra-conservative factions. He would pay, along with Republicans who back him, a horrific political price with voters who support a pathway to citizenship for the Dreamers in huge numbers.

The three major political power players in the American government today are President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Democrats sharpen their message on impeachment MORE, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Biden not ruling out Senate voting to impeach Trump: 'It will depend on what their constituency says' Congress hunts for path out of spending stalemate MORE (R-Ky.) and Pelosi. Of these three national leaders only Pelosi has shown high-concept political leadership and savvy during the opening weeks of the final two years of Trump’s term as president.

Pelosi knows much more about the art of the deal than the highly unpopular president. She successfully branded the Trump Shutdown when she looked him in the eye and labeled it as such. Trump aggressively walked into her trap, with deft coaxing from Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerIlhan Omar blasts Pete King as an 'Islamophobe' after he announces retirement: 'Good riddance' Top Senate Dem: Officials timed immigration policy around 2020 election Senate fight derails bipartisan drug pricing bills MORE (D-N.Y.), and vowed to shut down the government unless Congress agreed to his widely unpopular wall.

Pelosi and Schumer are playing a strong hand. They have skillfully seized the high ground, won the battle of ideas with voters who mostly blame Trump and Republicans for the shutdown and maintained Democratic unity while Republicans remain divided and defensive.

The Trump Shutdown is one of the worst blunders in modern political history. It imposes pain and suffering on a huge swath of Americans. It endangers travelers, makes hungry people more hungry, reminds voters of good things government regularly does and reduces economic growth when financial markets are in turmoil because of clear and present danger of a significant economic downturn.

Trump cannot effectively lead when he acts like the president of the Trump base and not the president of the United States. McConnell cannot effectively lead because he dreads the danger from the Trump base in future Republican primaries. Pelosi can lead because of her unified caucus, resurgent optimism of Democrats nationally and her leverage with Democratic control of the House that Trump has failed to come to grips with, but ultimately must.

Americans in large numbers want the shutdown ended. They want the policy of family separation ended. They want the Dreamers to have a path to citizenship.

If Pelosi makes a big move to end today the shutdown that voters hate, and promises to accept border security funding Trump seeks in return for fully backing Dreamers who most Americans strongly support, a huge majority of voters will back her. Either Trump accepts the deal and claims credit for border security or Republicans will pay a devastating political price.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.