Once again, with the showmanship of a veteran ringmaster, President Donald Trump leaked word of a late-night tentative agreement on border security being reached by a 17-member, bipartisan committee Monday — while keeping oddsmakers scrambling as to whether he’ll say, “Deal” or “No Deal.”
But with only days remaining before a Feb. 15 deadline, many Americans, still reeling from the impact of an historic 35-day shutdown, fear that the president will open the floodgates to more unchartered waters and a second partial federal government shutdown.
Nonplussed by deadlines and drama, Trump seemed to have other things on his mind, hinting that he “may” sign off on the latest offer despite being “displeased” — before quickly transforming the “support the wall hoedown” in El Paso Monday evening into a carefully-crafted campaign rally for 2020 bragging rights.
“Just so you know; we’re building the wall anyway,” Trump said, then further promoting his unique blend of hyperbole to which America and the world have grown so accustomed over the course of his two years in office.
“Only 6,500 people are allowed in this arena but thanks to the fire department, we’ve got around 8,000 in here — thousands more are watching outside on closed circuit TVs,” he said.
Terms and Conditions
The terms of the agreement, according to key lawmakers, include $1.37 billion which would pay for 55 miles of new border fencing in the form of steel slats but not a solid wall — far less than the $5.7 billion Trump has sought for more than 200 miles of walls. Democrats compromised by removing their demand for a new cap on immigrants detained in the U.S.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) described the deal as “good news,” adding that it “provides new funds for miles of new border barriers.” He promised to review the finer points of the bill with hopes that the Senate will vote for its approval “in short order.”
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) remained adamant when asked what he believes the president should do.
“These months of shutdown politics must come to an end,” he said.
According to Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), who flew back with the president to the White House following the rally in El Paso, Trump was “reviewing his options” with one possibility still being for the president to transfer money from other programs in order to fund the building for a more expansive wall along the southern border.
Closer to home here in the greater Washington Area, William C. Smith, Jr., a state senator from Montgomery County, also an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve who received orders from the Pentagon to deploy to Afghanistan and must report for duty March 29 (10 days before the last day of the General Assembly on April 8), says he’s kept in touch with Reps. Anthony Brown and Jamie Raskin who represent Maryland in Congress and how Marylanders might suffer, again.
“Maryland is particularly impacted by a shutdown like this because we have a little over 200,000 federal workers. The folks that are non-essential don’t go to work and you have the essential employees who are working for free, essentially. It’s a tremendous impact. There’s also ancillary impact with the local economy. It would be a terrible thing if they can’t get this together and come up with a deal. We will see,” Smith said.
Both the House and Senate must now approve the pending legislation and secure Trump’s signature to avoid the shutdown.
Pitch for Wall Morphs into Old-Fashioned Hoedown
With the sudden turn-of-events, whether by coincidence, providence or the result of chicanery committed at the highest level, Trump aptly abandoned his original script, a plea for the funding of his “wall,” instead touting victories secured under his watch, proposing what he deems to be a “mainstream, nonpartisan agenda” and calling the role of his hard-and-fast “American values, traditions and beliefs which unite us all.”
The throng of staunch supporters who stood for well over two hours — a crowd mostly comprised of white Americans and American families — men, women and children — repeatedly applauded Trump’s boasts, beliefs and promises.
Trump referred to his comments made during the recent State of the Union address during which he says he asked both Democrats and Republicans to “choose greatness.”
“We now have the hottest economy on Earth. We’ve invested $700 billion into the military that was in real trouble, we’re more powerful than we’ve ever been and we’re caring for our warriors. America is winning again,” he said, before citing a list of the many demographics of Americans he’s “proud to be fighting for” — a list that either by error or design, did not include the country’s LGBTQ [sexual orientation] citizens.
“Ours is a mainstream, commonsense agenda that’s good for the American people and moves us in the direction that Americans want to go. We support the dignity of work, the sanctity of life and we encourage faith and family over government bureaucracy. Most of all, we continue to guarantee religious freedom, freedom of speech, the right to bear and keep arms and uncompromised respect for the American flag,” he said.
As the rally drew to a close, Trump shared comments about his mission, perhaps echoing the words White House Press Secretary recently made while on a Christian radio show during which she referred to the president’s election victory being due to the “will of God.”
“Like you [Texans] have done throughout this state’s history, today, we’ve made our stand,” he said. “We’ve come together, millions and millions of people, in numbers never witnessed in history. We’ve come for safety, sovereignty and the sacred rights given to us by the hand of Almighty God.”
“We will make America wealthy, strong, safe and great again.”
Counter-Protest Efforts Fizzle
Trump gave short-shrift to a demonstration numbering hundreds of counterprotesters organized by Women’s March El Paso — a one-mile march past the president’s rally that also took place on Monday night. Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) walked in solidarity, joining scores of civic and human rights organizations determined to counter Trump’s “lies and false narrative about the U.S.-Mexico border.”
Trump said in his recent State of the Union address that El Paso’s border walls helped it become one of the nation’s safest cities. O’Rourke and local leaders dispute Trump’s “facts,” calling them both inaccurate and irrelevant.
Protestors walked through El Paso just before Trump took the stage, chanting “build bridges, not walls” while marching along the border fence that separates the city from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Others hoisted signs that challenged Trump on his notions of immigration including “Trump made America hate again.”
“El Paso is safe not because of walls but in spite of walls,” O’Rourke said during the counter-protest rally.