Diagnosis for Democracy
Insights into the State of Our Union
A Blog by Rob Tenery, MD


Trump Could be Moving West

By Rob Tenery, MD on April 3, 2018

To get to the Oval Office, the recent Omnibus bill took a majority of votes from both sides of Congress. But it is Trump who will get the blame or kudos for signing this bloated appropriations legislation into law on March 23rd.

Although the Democrats don’t have a majority in either house of Congress, they are claiming victory. The Republicans are licking their wounds, while Trump is claiming he will never sign this expansive a funding bill ever again.

To most observers, this over 2,200-page legislation seems like a clear win for the Democrats and a defeat for Trump’s agenda, especially when it comes to his campaign promises on illegal immigration. The legislation did nothing about the DACA children. There was no funding to increase the number ICE agents. The amount of space for detention of apprehended illegal aliens was reduced to less than what is currently available—so the catch-and release program is not going to change. Measures that would have restricted money to sanctuary cities were stricken from the budget bill. The new budget only provides for 33 miles of new fencing on the Texas border--- also there is a stipulation that these funds cannot resemble anything to with ‘the border wall prototypes that Trump has already seen. The bill prohibits any barrier in the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge because it would restrict access to birdwatchers. Additionally, the bill provides funding to enhance border security in other countries, specifically Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Tunisia.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting — something that Republican presidents have been promising to eliminate and defund, including Donald Trump, will be fully funded. “This is the federal government paying the radio equivalent of CNN to continue their daily bash of Donald Trump, which they couldn’t do without your taxpayer dollars,” according to Rush Limbaugh. These are just a couple of examples of things that Trump had targeted and suggested wouldn’t be missed.

Just as with the Obamacare, there may be more to come out of this massive piece of legislation once there has been more time to dissect it. Two parts of it are clear: Passing the bill avoided a government shutdown that could have played poorly for either Party in the upcoming midterm elections. The second is a significant increase in allocation for military spending. Although there is still some controversy, the consensus is that the U.S. military presence had fallen behind during the eight years of the Obama administration. If  history has taught us anything about this subject, it was that Reagan’s superior military might forced Russia to capitulate in the battle of the Cold War. With the growing threats from Iran and North Korea, if the U.S. is going to exert any influence, Trump and many experts feel this country’s military presence must be increased.

The real question, which has jet to be answered, is why did Trump appear to give in on the number one issue that dominated his campaign--- illegal immigration. Was this issue not really that important to him? Is he more concerned just getting legislation to his desk in the Oval Office, even though the solution was not part of his campaign promises? Or is he a realist, waiting for a better time to fight his battles on illegal immigration and reining in the national deficit? There have been vague references floated to putting together a balanced budget amendment and a line item veto. Both are considered unrealistic and only a weak attempt by Republicans to soften the blow of this massive spending bill.  

If there is any consensus about Trump, it is that he is not conventional--- meaning that his methods of getting the results he wants do not follow the old norms of Washington politics. In his book, The Art of the Deal, Trump lays out that the first offer in any negotiation is to ask for more than you expect to get. The next step is to find a compromise where each party gives up something.

Looking at the upcoming midterm elections, just 7 months away, one has to question how much their outcome plays in the decision by Trump and the Republicans in Congress that crossed the aisle to abandon their previous campaign promises. The Democrats seem to have gotten what they wanted. By not shutting down the government, the Republicans are hoping to not lose their majority in the House and Senate.

If Trump and his Republican cohorts guessed right, he can continue his campaign to address his battle against illegal immigration and maybe curtail some of the egregious spending measures in this new legislation. If they were wrong and the Democrats gain control of either or both bodies of Congress, it’s not entirely impossible to imagine Trump serving out the rest of his term from a new Oval Office somewhere overlooking the Pacific. 





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