In a couple of television interviews on Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham said that he was more encouraged than ever that President Trump and the Democrats would come to an agreement that would allow the government shutdown to conclude in the near future. Telling reporters that he’d met with the president at the White House to discuss the potential compromises in the works, Graham said that Trump was eager to hammer out a deal that would include money to begin construction on the wall.
“The president was upbeat, he was in a very good mood, and I think he’s receptive to making a deal,” he said.
Graham said he suggested a deal in which Congress could provide some form of work permits for Dreamers as part of a spending agreement that would also see the Democrats cough up $5 billion for the wall. Democrats were on the verge of making a DACA amnesty-for-wall deal last year, but hardliners in the White House said that it was a no-go unless it also included provisions ending chain migration and the diversity visa lottery. Ultimately, both sides walked away from the table.
But Graham said that Trump needed to be realistic about his position.
“I don’t see Democrats giving us more money unless they get something. So, the one thing we talked about is making deals,” Graham said. “After lunch I’ve never been more encouraged that if we can get people talking we can find our way out of this mess and that would include around $5 billion for border security/wall/fencing, whatever you want to call it in areas that make sense.”
Graham sounded confident that Democrats were willing to make a deal, but we’re not so sure about that. For whatever reason they’ve calculated in their internal polling, they believe it would be political suicide to cave in and allocate even a thin dime for the construction of Trump’s wall – even if it is called fencing or steel slats or Holiday Barrier Funtime Zone. Unless that polling starts to fall apart (and frankly, there are reasons to suspect that it will) or unless the courts suddenly put the Dreamers in serious jeopardy of being deported, it may be difficult for the White House to manage a compromise.
Now the question is: How long is Trump willing to hold out for the Big Deal? How far into 2019 is he willing to push this shutdown? How much does he perceive this victory as being key to his re-election chances?
Those questions may determine where these negotiations go over the coming weeks…or months.