Donald Trump’s hatred of looking foolish and Democrats’ conviction that they have a winning hand is leaving the President with no way out of the stalemate over his border wall.
That means hundreds of thousands of federal workers, in limbo in a government shutdown that is within days of becoming the longest on record, are about to pay a heavy price when their paychecks don’t arrive as normal on Friday.
Far from moving toward a resolution, the shutdown, which started in the old Republican Congress and has stretched into the new Democratic House majority, is becoming more intractable by the day.
On Wednesday, in talks with top congressional leaders, Trump lived up to a tweet he fired off nearly eight years ago: “‘Know when to walk away from the table.’
He stormed out of the White House Situation Room after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declined to finance the border wall that the President didn’t manage to get funded when the GOP held the purse strings.
“Just left a meeting with Chuck and Nancy, a total waste of time,” Trump tweeted shortly after the meeting broke up.
“I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier? Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye, nothing else works!”
The collapse of the talks left Trump’s strategy for extricating himself from the shutdown with a much needed political victory, a mystery.
It cast further doubt on the President’s claim to be the ultimate deal-maker and offered a glimpse into a power struggle between the President and the speaker that could define the nation’s politics over the next two years.
For Trump’s dramatic gesture on Wednesday to succeed, Democrats would have to need an end to the government shutdown more than the President — and would come back with a fresh enticement for him to do a deal.
But there is no reason to believe Democrats are anywhere near folding, a factor that is making life even more difficult for a President and White House team that is learning how frustrating divided government can be.