The president has blinked.
“I am very proud to announce today that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government,” Trump said, while announcing that he had agreed to a three-week short-term spending bill that would reopen the government — one that doesn’t contain wall money.
The legislation would fund the government through February 15, on the condition that lawmakers continue negotiations on border security and Trump’s border wall demands once the shutdown is over. This is essentially House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s demand, and a very similar bill to the one that failed in the Senate on Thursday.
Trump couldn’t help but boost his own position, though. “As everyone knows, I have a very powerful alternative but I didn’t want to use it at this time,” he said, likely referring to his plan to declare a national emergency and pull other funding for his wall, something he did not do and got a lot of pushback from the right for considering.
Trump’s announcement marks a major win for Democrats, who’ve resolutely refused to negotiate on border security until the government is open again. While Trump had insisted he would only agree to a short-term spending bill if it included a “down payment” on the wall, Democrats’ refusal to budge on the matter appears to have paid off.
The dramatic shift in Trump’s position comes as pressure has mounted on the White House to end the shutdown, which has now resulted in two missed pay periods for hundreds of thousands of federal workers, delays to air travel, and stalled services across key agencies. Numerous polls in recent weeks showed public opinion increasingly souring on the president, who’s been fielding most of the blame about this impasse.
“The walls we are building are not medieval walls. They are smart walls designed to meet the needs of front-line border agents and are operationally effective,” he said, describing a proposal that has essentially been Democrats’ demand — no concrete wall but rather a strategic investment in security.
“We do not need 2,000 miles of concrete wall from sea to shining sea, we never did, we never proposed that, we never wanted that, because we have barriers at the border where our natural structures are as good as anything we can build,” he continued, somewhat mystifyingly — contradicting his own years-long position on the border wall. “They’re already there. They’ve been there for millions of years.”
A pair of failed Senate votes this week were among the developments that helped move things along: They indicated that a proposal Trump unveiled last weekend, which included a $5.7 billion demand for a border wall, would not be able to make it through Congress, and forced the administration to consider possible alternatives.
Democrats have said they are open to discussions about increasing border security funding once the government is open, though Pelosi has previously signaled she’s not interested in giving Trump any money for a wall even after the shutdown has ended.
Trump shut down the government in December because Congress did not approve funds for the border wall, one of his chief campaign promises. More than a month later, he’s finally capitulated on a deal that doesn’t guarantee wall funding at all, a sign of just how little his decision to shut down the government ultimately accomplished.